On May 4, Congressional Republicans gathered in the Rose Garden at the White House to celebrate a 217-213 vote to pass H.R. 1628 (the American Health Care Act, or the AHCA) that finally accomplished something they had tried more than 50 times before: to repeal and replace the ACA, also known as “Obamacare” (even though only 17% of Americans supported such legislation according to one poll). President Trump took the podium to boast, “We’ve come up with a really incredible health care plan, this has brought the Republican Party together.”
Republicans have been quick to defend the AHCA. My Congressional Representative, Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2nd District), praised the bill because it “restores pro-life principles to our nation’s healthcare.” He noted that pro-life organizations like the National Right to Life, Susan B. Anthony List, the Family Research Council, and the Concerned Women for America supported passage of the bill. But this cherry-picked list makes it seem like the AHCA is a slam-dunk for those concerned about defending human life at every stage. On the contrary, a number of Catholic organizations opposed the AHCA, including the Catholic Health Association of the United States and NETWORK, the Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, which coordinated and published concerns from more than 40 Faith Organizations. Widening the scope, Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN-5th District) listed 50 groups opposed to the AHCA, including the AARP, American Medical Association, American Health Care Association, National Partnership for Women and Families, AFL-CIO, and National Council of La Raza, among others. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA-2nd District) denounced the bill in a most eloquent manner, calling it a “shameful” piece of legislation that was rushed after a “pathetic process.”
Indeed, it seems it was premature to celebrate and defend the bill without an updated Congressional Budget Office report. This nonpartisan review—released earlier this week—makes it difficult to claim this bill “restores pro-life principles to our nation’s healthcare.”
Here are a few highlights from the CBO report on the AHCA:
- 23 million Americans would become uninsured and it would increase costs for the sickest and oldest citizens.
- In 2026, 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured (compared to 28 million under the ACA).
- Medicaid (federal and state health insurance for low-income and disabled Americans, as well as children and the elderly) spending would be cut by $834 billion and 14 million people would lose Medicaid coverage.
- Low-income senior citizens could see premium increases as high as 800%, whereas the richest Americans would see their premiums drop. (The richest Americans will also enjoy a $346 billion tax cut over ten years.)
- Current funding levels will cover only 110,000 individuals with a pre-existing chronic condition. If states use other funding, they could cover up to 600,000 individuals with pre-existing chronic conditions, which is not even a third of the 2.2 million enrollees who have a preexisting chronic condition at present. Others report that the AHCA would only cover about 5% of those with preexisting conditions.
- The cost of maternity care could also increase by thousands of dollars, which would likely lead to higher rates of abortion. (The ACA provided prenatal and pediatric care to 9.5 million previously uninsured women, an enormous achievement for families.) Some have said the AHCA disproportionately targets women, especially women in poverty while others call the bill anti-life. Surely those who complain about having to pay for prenatal care for others—as Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL-15th District) did in March—miss the point about what it means to be pro-life.
- 1 in 5 Americans struggle with mental illness, but the AHCA would let states drop coverage for mental health and substance abuse (the Surgeon General reported in November that almost 21 million Americans struggle with substance abuse), charge people higher premiums if they have a pre-existing condition (like anxiety or depression), and create high-risk pools, which would be another way to charge people with mental illness more and provide less coverage.
These features of the AHCA make it clear that “Trumpcare” falls well short of the standard set by Catholic Social Teaching, whether that refers to the life and dignity of the human person, the call to participation in social life, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, or solidarity. Read More