GOP health care ‘falls short’ for everyone

She was one of 20 Republicans who bucked their own party last week by voting against the House health care bill known as the American Health Care Act, but Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents Washington’s 18th Legislative District, still says she’s committed to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act — better known as “Obamacare” to its detractors.

“I’ll remain fully engaged as Congress moves forward with this effort and won’t cease working toward solutions that leave Southwest Washington residents with better access to health care than Obamacare has left them,” Herrera Beutler said in a press release sent out hours after the House passed the AHCA by a handful of votes on May 4.

The congresswoman had pushed for an amendment that would protect medically vulnerable children, but said she thought the final bill “fell short.”

“The difficulties this bill would create for millions of children still need to be addressed,” Herrera Beutler said. “For the last several weeks, I fought to include my amendment to strengthen the Medicaid safety net for the kids who depend on it for their health care.”

We agree with Herrera Beutler that the AHCA falls short in its coverage of vulnerable children. In fact, the bill falls short for almost everyone.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, if the AHCA were to pass through the Senate and become law:

  • 24 million Americans will lose their health care coverage by 2026
  • Insurers will again be able to charge more to Americans with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, congestive heart failure, alcohol or drug abuse with recent treatment, Alzheimer’s or dementia, mental disorders, multiple sclerosis, pending surgery or hospitalization, pregnancy, sleep apnea and stroke.
  • People who have employer-sponsored health care will again be at risk of losing coverage since the AHCA, unlike Obama’s ACA, does not penalize employers with more than 50 workers who don’t offer health insurance. It also eliminates the ACA’s requirement that employer-provided health plans limit an employee’s out-of-pocket expenses.
  • New mothers and children will be more at risk. The AHCA includes $880 billion in Medicaid cuts and within those cuts are things like screenings for postpartum depression for millions of lower-income new mothers. In fact, even higher income women who find themselves expecting a child could discover that they’ve been negatively impacted by the AHCA, since the bill opens up pregnancy as a pre-existing condition and may mean that insurers won’t even cover the costs associated with prenatal, labor and delivery and postpartum care.

This hastily thrown-together, poorly researched health care bill is currently making its way through a Senate working group and is expected to come out looking much different than the bill Herrera Beutler rightly refused to accept.

But before you get your hopes up, you should know that the Senate working group includes 13 men and no women. With that kind of slap in the face to female legislators, it’s extremely unlikely that the Senate version of the AHCA will help those vulnerable children Herrera Beutler mentioned — or do anything at all to improve the health care outlook for women and new families.

As Sen. Kamala Harris put it: “The GOP is crafting a policy on an issue that directly impacts women without including a single woman in the process. It’s wrong.”

We agree. And if you do, too, now is the time to make your voices heard. The bill is expected to have a tougher time passing the Senate and both of Washington’s senators are Democrats who have shown no love for the GOP’s attempts at ACA replacements, but it never hurts to call and let your opinions be known. To leave a message for Sen. Patty Murray, call 202-224-2621. To call Sen. Maria Cantwell, dial 202-224-3441.