Summit Daily editorial: Trumpcare harms the High Country
March 14, 2017
To the surprise of no one who lives here, Obamacare has not been a runaway success in Summit County, where health insurance premiums still rank among the highest in the nation. However, the GOP's rushed and reckless efforts to "reform" the Affordable Care Act would make the health care situation in the Colorado High Country worse.
Under the American Health Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 24 million people will lose health coverage by 2026. The office also predicts that Medicaid spending for low-income Americans will drop by $880 billion over the next decade if the plan passes.
Despite those dramatic figures from a non-partisan office, supporters of the bill, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, have claimed no one will lose coverage under the bill. Yes, the CBO has been wrong before, particularly on Obamacare, but Price's notion that total coverage will hold steady while funding is dramatically slashed beggars belief.
Let's put that debate aside for a moment, though. As it is currently structured, the AHCA — which another powerful acronym, AARP, called "harmful legislation" — will hit Summit County's families and senior citizens the hardest.
The new plan would replace Obamacare's up-front subsidies with tax credits. Anyone making less than $75,000 a year would get a tax credit on insurance. The amount of the credit is determined by age: $2,000 for the 27-30 age bracket; $2,500 for those between 30-40, and $4,000 credit for those 60 and above.
But here's the rub for Colorado's resort communities: Geography does not play a role in determining the amount of the subsidy. That's going to mean a net loss in subsidies/tax credits for Summit County residents.
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Bethany Pray, a health care attorney with the Denver-based Colorado Center on Law and Policy, recently told Summit Daily reporter Kevin Fixler that the GOP proposal is a worse fit for the mountain area than Obamacare: "There's a really big difference, and a sizable impact on the Western Slope, because those tax credits don't change if insurance … is more expensive there compared to the Front Range."
Yes, insurance premiums climbed steadily under Obamacare, but the new GOP plan could accelerate that dynamic further. We need to slam on the brakes now and come up with a better plan.
Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who has championed efforts at the state level to address high health care costs in the mountains, said it well.
"I think Congress is playing Russian roulette with people's lives right now," he said. "They need to think very carefully and be very cautious about what is the longer term for the American people. Because big picture, neither the ACA and AHCA talk about curbing the cost of health care to individuals. It's silent on that, and that's what's killing us in the mountain communities."
Contrary to President Donald Trump's recent statements, we all know that health care is complicated. That's why the GOP should slow down and come up with a plan that won't put people's lives and livelihoods in danger.
The Summit Daily editorial board consists of editor Ben Trollinger, publisher Meg Boyer, a reporter and three citizen members.