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The house narrowly voted for the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a bill designed to repeal and replace Obamacare. The new plan, also known as Trump Care, still has to pass in the Senate. If the AHCA passes in its current form, it could seriously impact many Americans.
The people who would be affected the most by this bill are those over 50, people with pre-existing conditions, and those on Medicaid. The premiums for people between 50 and 64 years of age are estimated to increase up to five times what younger people pay. They also would receive less in tax credits using the flat-tax credit system. This would mean drastically higher premiums for the elderly and would increase the amount of old people with no insurance coverage substantially. The AARP says that a 64 year old making $15,000 a year would pay up to $8,400 more in insurance premiums.
The AHCA would also make it hard for people with pre-existing conditions to find affordable coverage. The American Medical association warns that many such people would either have much higher premiums or not be able to get coverage at all. The pre-existing conditions exclusion would significantly impact individuals struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder and would further increase premiums for those with a pre-existing condition seeking private insurance.
Here’s how it would impact those who need insurance to help cover treatment costs for substance use disorders and/or mental health support. The mandate for Medicaid to cover mental health and addiction services would end. Medicaid funding would be cut by $880 billion, forcing states to fund Medicaid, which does not bode well for services like mental health and substance abuse treatment. Medicaid is the largest payer towards these services, so millions of Americans would lose access to the treatment they need.
For those looking to cover mental health and addiction services under their insurance, rates would rise as well. Drug dependence as a preexisting condition will cost an estimated $20,450 in surcharges, five times what a healthy health care applicant would pay. In addition, the removal of behavioral health as an essential benefit would likely reduce coverage for such services in most private insurance plans unless individuals opt into this coverage, which will likely require an increase in premiums.
With the current opioid epidemic, access to quality health care can save many lives from overdose and spreading infectious diseases. Michael Botticelli, the former director of National Drug Control Policy, told NPR that if the new bill were to pass, we would see a spike in drug overdose deaths. He also predicts that emergency rooms would see heavier traffic and that crime rates would go up as well. This would all be attributable to the reduction in coverage and access to mental health and substance use treatment providers.
It may seem unlikely that the new bill will pass in the senate in its current form, but nonetheless it’s important that people speak out. If you feel strongly that drug addiction and mental health issues need to be covered as part of any new health care act, let it be known. The most important provisions which should be carried over or addressed in some form or fashion is the coverage for pre-existing conditions and having behavioral health be an essential benefit. Call your senator, contact your house representative, go to local government meetings such as town halls, or donate money to organizations that are actively working to oppose this bill!