I am writing today to explain how the new Congressional health care bill could directly impact your bottom line and your health coverage. The American Health Care Act (also known as TrumpCare), a bill sponsored by Republicans that is intended to roll back the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), passed the House of Representatives on Thursday. It includes a provision that would allow the use of ‘waivers’ for conditions and treatments that you are currently covered for.
Presently, there is a set of national requirements that define ‘quality coverage.’ They include coverage for things like emergency room visits, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment – and they limit the out-of-pocket costs that you would pay in the event of a catastrophic (and extremely expensive) illness.
This last provision is especially important. In 2007, prior to ObamaCare, over half of all bankruptcies in the U.S. were due to medical bills (even for people who had insurance).
If the AHCA passes the Senate in its current form, states could apply for waivers to become exempt from these essential requirements. If you live in California and have employer-provided health care, you may not think this would have an impact on you. However, under the new bill, large employers can choose to follow the rules of any state – they are not bound by the requirements of the state in which they operate, or where their workers reside. In other words, employers can shop for plans in other states, and select the one that is the best for their own bottom line – at the expense of their employees.
In all likelihood, many employers will take this opportunity to switch to a cheaper medical plan that covers less. They will also be able to get rid of limits on the out-of-pocket costs that employees would pay in the case of a catastrophic illness – meaning that if the worst happened, you may not be covered for it.
For example, if any other state decides that it will no longer require coverage for maternity care or emergency room visits, a California or Nevada-based company would be free to use that model as well. The net effect will be a “race to the bottom” for health care plans, allowing employers to slash medical coverage for countless workers and their families.
The next step for this bill is passage through the Senate – and changes may be made there. We will continue to monitor this issue closely, and stand opposed to any changes that may adversely affect health coverage of our members. We fought long and hard to give you quality, affordable health care, and moves like this – moves that plainly favor employers over workers – are simply unacceptable.
–Tom Dalzell, IBEW 1245 Business Manager