PBI Confronts a Changing Health Care Landscape

Like many others across northwestern Wisconsin, members of Polk Burnett Indivisible are struggling to figure out how proposed changes in the nation’s health care law might affect them. The group is hoping to hear directly from Representative Sean Duffy during the next congressional recess at the end of April. Duffy, a steadfast supporter of President Trump, has probably read the same assessments that we have regarding how “Trumpcare” will impact the 7th Congressional District.

Here’s what we know so far:

* The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says that during the first year alone, 14 million people will lose their health insurance coverage under Trumpcare. That number will grow to 24 million over ten years.
* According to the CBO, premiums will likely decline, but that will be the result of lower benefit policies with higher deductibles and narrower networks.
* There will be a reduction of the federal deficit, mostly at the expense of low-income folks who will see a 25% reduction in federal Medicaid spending along with reduced tax credits to subsidize coverage.
* People aged 55 to 64 will likely see significant increases in their premiums. Under the ACA, insurance companies could charge that age group a maximum of three times what they charge young people; under Trumpcare, that increases to five times what younger individuals pay.
* While the individual mandate would disappear, more stringent penalties would take effect for those who allow their coverage to lapse and then attempt to restore it. Under the ACA, individuals could be assessed a penalty of $695 in 2016 for failing to purchase health insurance. By contrast, under Trumpcare those who let their coverage lapse for 63 continuous days and then seek to renew it can be charged a 30% “late enrollment surcharge” when they restore their coverage. That has led many to call the surcharge “an individual mandate in disguise.”
* The rich will be the beneficiaries of over $600 billion in tax cuts under Trumpcare.
Ironically, Representative Duffy’s congressional district, which includes all of Polk and Burnett Counties, will be among the hardest hit areas in the country. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from March 18th, Duffy’s district currently has the highest number of Obamacare enrollees in the state (more than 35,000 in 2016). The biggest losses in tax credits across Wisconsin under Trumpcare would occur in Duffy’s district and that of Representative Ron Kind. In the 7th Congressional District, a 60 year-old earning $30,000 would stand to lose more than $5500 a year according to the Journal Sentinel article. For older, low-income residents, that amount could exceed $15,000 in portions of Duffy’s district.

Two PBI members who fall into the 55 to 64 year-old age group, expected to face the steepest increases under the proposed Republican health plan, agreed to share what the change from Obamacare to Trumpcare will mean for them. Barb Kimmel and her husband were paying over $18,000 a year for health coverage, a third of their annual income, before the ACA [Obamacare] took effect. Once they were able to purchase insurance on the ACA marketplace, they saw their premiums go down by over $1200 a month and their joint deductible, which had been over $20,000 a year, was reduced to under $7000 annually. “As a person who has worked manual labor their entire life for their wage, the ACA changed my life,” Barb said. “And if it is repealed, it will likely change my life again, meaning five more years of a hard struggle to pay for a high deductible health insurance policy until I qualify for Medicare.”

Kim Butler, who wrote about her health challenges in the Leader a while ago, talked about how the ACA affected her health care fortunes. “I did have insurance, but before the ACA, my insurance company could rider out all pre-existing conditions, including asthma, allergies, high cholesterol and more, and they wouldn’t cover any prescriptions. Once the ACA took effect, I paid a comparable premium price, but my policy covered all the above mentioned conditions and all my prescriptions. Now, at 55, ten years out from cancer, I am very worried about ACHA rates for someone my age, especially given the changes proposed for the 55 to 64 year-old age group under Trumpcare.”

If you’d like to work with other like-minded folks in our area to fight these and other proposed changes by the Trump administration, you can get on the email list for Polk Burnett Indivisible by sending an email to polkburnettindivisible@gmail.com. You’ll be kept informed of meeting times and places, group actions and other activities.

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