Last week, House Republicans passed a tax-reform bill that increases insurance premiums for millions of Americans and cuts Medicare by $25 billion. Senate Republicans are working on a bill that eliminates the individual mandate and will, in effect, sabotage the Affordable Care Act and cause 13 million Americans to lose health insurance.
Let’s be clear: Neither the House tax-reform bill nor the pending Senate tax-reform bill is really about tax breaks for middle-class Americans. Americans are caught in the cross-hairs of the Trump Administration’s apparent singular agenda of erasing President Obama’s legacy, no matter what the collateral damage.
This fight now goes to the Senate, where the Republicans can only afford to lose one vote. Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has already said he won’t vote for the current version of the bill. Senators Collins, Corker, Flake, McCain, Murkowski and Paul have all expressed concerns. Senator Collins opposed the implications of eliminating the individual mandate when the Republicans were trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier this year.
While not surprising, it is worth noting that, once again, President Trump is not living up to his pledge to “repeal and replace” the ACA and make sure that Americans have better health insurance. But now The Trump Administration and GOP are not even pretending.
All of this is happening during the once-a-year, open-enrollment period when Americans who do not currently have health insurance or need to change their health insurance plan get to sign up for insurance on the ACA health exchanges. It is critically important that we not allow people signing up for the ACA during open enrollment to be lost in this tax-reform debate happening in Washington, D.C.
The Black AIDS Institute is engaging in a 17-city Black Healthcare Access Tour to raise awareness about the importance of the ACA and to help people sign up for coverage. To find out when we’re going to be in a city near you, please go to www.BlackAIDS.org or read the story in this issue.
Also in this issue, shopping for health insurance on the at HealthCare.gov has gotten tricky as a result of President Trump’s plan to sabotage the ACA. Our friends at Kaiser Health News remind us not to merely renew our existing plan, but to shop around for better insurance and pricing. They provide us with both a cheat sheet that will make that process easier and information about the role traditional insurance brokers can play in that process. Importantly, open enrollment ends on December 15, 2017. If you haven’t done so already, you only have 24 days left to obtain your health insurance. Time to get moving!
As the GOP attempts to revamp the nation’s tax code, also keep an eye out for the provision House Republicans passed that would eliminate the tax deduction for people with very high medical expenses and fight to ensure that it doesn’t end up in any final bill.
In October, the Institute ran a Brown Bag Lunch webinar about hepatitis C among African Americans. Black Americans have the second highest rate of new hep C infections so we must take steps to protect ourselves and seek treatment. Journalist Tamara Holmes reports.
Yours in the struggle,