Last week in this space, we shared our initial concerns about the American Health Care Act. This replacement legislation for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had just been released. As we further analyzed the specifics of the bill and weighed that analysis against our established principle of preserving coverage for Washingtonians, we reached the conclusion that we cannot support it as currently structured.
Our message has been simple: If the ACA is replaced, we want to ensure the coverage levels meet or exceed current levels. It’s clear that the proposal, as designed now, would reduce access to health coverage, especially for low-income residents who can least afford it.
This week, the Congressional Budget Office released its assessment of the bill and confirmed our analysis. A stunning 24 million people would lose their health insurance coverage if the new law were enacted. This is four million fewer insured people in our country than before the ACA was passed.
In our state, the biggest impact is likely to be on Medicaid. While federal funding for Medicaid would be preserved for people enrolled on December 31, 2019, anyone who needs coverage after that, or who has a break in Medicaid coverage, would only continue to have coverage if the state paid a much higher share of their costs — an unlikely possibility given our state’s fiscal situation.
Medicaid is not a static program. In fact, people on Medicaid often are dealing with some of the least stable circumstances of all Americans. Job gains and job losses, mental health stability and mental health crises, securing housing and losing housing: All these very much impact the Medicaid population and lead to people cycling on and off the program. Drastic cuts in federal funding for new or returning enrollees will, without question, lead to fewer enrollees and worsen the health of our communities. It’s time to contact your federal legislators to share your concerns.
WSHA President & CEO