By David Thomsen, Policy Analyst, Health Policy Project, NCLR
Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed what many advocates and experts feared—the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is bad news for Americans.
The CBO’s latest estimate on the real-world effect of the AHCA finds that 23 million Americans would lose their health coverage by 2026. This estimate is due in large part because this bill decimates Medicaid, which helps children, seniors, and the disabled access health coverage. These cuts total an almost incomprehensible $834 billion and would force states to cut Medicaid benefits, cut enrollment in the program, or both. No state’s Medicaid program would be spared, and access to health care would be jeopardized for millions of people.
Since 1965, Medicaid has essentially guaranteed that our most vulnerable have access to health coverage, and that need hasn’t changed today. Today, 74 million Americans, including 18 million Latinos, are enrolled in Medicaid, making the program the nation’s largest single source of health coverage. This program is a literal lifeline for the Latino community, as one in three Latinos rely on the program for access to health care, including 9.8 million Latino children. Several studies have shown Medicaid’s importance to children’s health and well-being. However, the AHCA willingly ensures a future where our children are less healthy today, and less able to pursue their dreams tomorrow.
The AHCA’s effect would be felt beyond individual Medicaid enrollees. The sheer size of these cuts would have a tremendous impact on state budgets and the overall economy, as Medicaid is both a spending item and a major source of federal revenue for states. Nearly half of all federal funds spent by states go to their Medicaid programs, and states have no way to recoup billions of dollars in lost federal funds. If enacted, this bill would force states to significantly cut spending on health care as well as spending on other programs that we all count on, like education, transportation, and emergency services.
The AHCA repeals every cent of federal funding for Medicaid expansion, ensuring that everyone who gained Medicaid through this pathway will lose coverage, and states that expanded the program will be left holding the bag. Medicaid expansion programs have provided access to health coverage for three million low-income Latino adults in the 31 states, plus DC, that have chosen to expand their programs. This has not only enabled millions of previously uninsured adults to access coverage, but has transformed state economies in the process. States that have enacted Medicaid expansion have realized budget savings, revenue gains, and overall economic growth.
The AHCA would single-handedly cause millions of Latinos to lose their health coverage, and would completely reverse the painstaking progress we have made to reduce health inequities in our country. The AHCA’s Medicaid cuts harm our health, our economy, and our children’s future. This bill cuts access to health care for millions and decimates state budgets just to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.
But this fight is not over.
As the debate over this bill continues in the Senate, your senators need to hear from you. You can join a town hall, show up at their offices, or call them to say that you flatly reject a bill that takes so much from those who need it most.
For more ways to contact your senator during the Memorial Day recess click here and here. You can find additional resources and talking points here. We need champions in our communities and on Capitol Hill. We must ensure that the Senate says NO to the American Health Care Act.