Rep. Annie Kuster: It’s time to improve health care for all Americans

For the Monitor
Published: 3/26/2017 12:35:12 AM

In recent weeks, Americans have watched as Republicans in the House have pursued a partisan bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

I oppose this bill, and I wanted to share with you why I made that decision.

I oppose this effort not because I believe the Affordable Care Act is perfect and not because there aren’t areas in which we can improve our health care system. I oppose it because the bill before us was rammed through the House of Representatives without thorough consideration and more importantly because it is wrong for New Hampshire and wrong for our country.

It’s clear why Republicans felt the need to keep their legislation, the American Health Care Act, under lock and key for weeks before its introduction.

This bill, simply put, would be a disaster for hard-working families, Americans age 50 and older, seniors, veterans, rural communities and those suffering from substance use disorder. The inherent problems with this bill are clear, even to Republicans. It’s the only explanation for their desire to rush it through Congress without a comprehensive review.

If my colleagues had cared to wait for the assessment by the nonpartisan budget office they would have learned what many of us suspected – that this bill would kick millions of Americans off their health insurance, increase costs and limit access to quality care.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called repealing the ACA “an act of mercy.” I have to disagree with him. I think taking away the health insurance of millions of Americans and thousands of Granite Staters is an act of malice.

In New Hampshire, under the ACA, the uninsured rate dropped from 12 percent in 2013 to just 4 percent in 2016, and nearly 50,000 Granite Staters have gained access to insurance through Medicaid expansion.

The Republican plan that I oppose would jeopardize the progress we’ve made in expanding access to health care. It’s estimated that in New Hampshire more than 65,000 Granite Staters would lose their health insurance by 2026 under the Republican proposal.

The American Health Care Act would raise costs for families and middle-aged Americans. Let’s be clear here; if you’re 50 years of age or older, and buying your own insurance, your costs will go up under this plan.

The AHCA allows insurance companies to charge Americans 50 and over five times more than others for the same level of care. This “age tax” is going to hit thousands of Granite Staters in the pocket book. But the costs don’t end there. Once you reach retirement age, you may be left out to dry again because the AHCA shortens the solvency of Medicare by three years.

Also millionaires, billionaires, and insurance executives get a massive tax break. This is outrageous!

Medicaid expansion, which has helped thousands of people in New Hampshire access health insurance for the first time, would be cut by $880 million. Here in the Granite State, Medicaid expansion has improved our response to the opioid addiction epidemic by helping many folks access the treatment and recovery services they need.

We’re just starting to get ahead of this crisis and this would be the worst time to pull the rug out from under those working toward recovery.

This partisan debate has left me deeply worried about the future of health care in our nation.

I’ve met with health care providers and residents throughout New Hampshire, and I’m alarmed by the impact the Republican health care bill would have on communities throughout our state.

In Berlin, Lebanon, Concord, Nashua, Peterborough, and Keene, I’ve heard from people who are deeply concerned about what repeal of the Affordable Care Act would mean for them. In rural communities particularly, we could see dramatic reductions in access to health care and some hospitals may even close their doors.

For these and many other reasons, I oppose the American Health Care Act. I’ve long advocated for working together – Republicans, Democrats and independents – to improve the Affordable Care Act. No piece of legislation is perfect, and the ACA is no exception.

But that doesn’t mean we should dismantle our entire health care system just so some lawmakers can fulfil a campaign promise.

I’m hopeful that moving forward my Republican colleagues will come to the table and work in good faith to improve health care for all Americans.

(Annie Kuster represents New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District.)




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