On January 24, a group of Northfield concerned citizens visited the just-opened Burnsville office of Congressional Second District Representative Jason Lewis to discuss the future of healthcare.
From the Joan Janusz letter to The Northfield News :
Repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as ObamaCare, without a replacement is irresponsible.
Lewis’ District Director, Jack Dwyer, stated that there is a replacement plan being worked on but did not know any details. Dwyer tried to assure the group that there would be transparency, that Rep. Lewis understands the needs and that the Burnsville office will be a local source of information as it becomes available.
Several in the group shared health care stories that illustrated the frustrations and grave concerns about decisions that could affect them and their loved ones. In this time of uncertainty, rapid change and decisions being made in Washington, we strongly encourage all constituents to continually contact Lewis through his Burnsville or Washington D.C. office to share their own health care stories, questions and concerns and make their needs known.
Call Rep. Jason Lewis: Washington D.C. 202-225-2271 or jasonlewis.house.gov Call or visit District Coordinator Jack Dwyer: 888-216-4934 or 2805 Cliff Road East, Suite 200 Burnsville MN 55337.
Obviously, it’s great that citizens are engaging with Congressman Lewis’ staff … but ya gotta wonder if –in the name of transparency– if District Director Dwyer mentioned on that day, Congressman Lewis would be voting on H.R. 7 … a bill that would radically change their current healthcare ?
The debate on the bill should really be a warning of what the future will look like … especially for women.
The “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017” (aka “Violating the Rights of Women Act of 2017”), H.R. 7 was introduced on January 13th, –bypassed any committee hearings– was debated and voted on January 24th.
Without any public review from previous proposals, HR 7 includes new provisions that would (1) ban abortion coverage in multi-state health plans available under the ACA; and (2) mandate that health plans mislead consumers about abortion coverage by requiring all plans in the health-insurance exchanges that include abortion coverage to display that fact prominently in all advertising, marketing materials, or information from the insurer but interestingly, does not require the same disclosure from plans that do not cover abortion.
Even though there were tax consequences of the legislation, Erik Paulsen and the House Ways and Means Committee didn’t even bother to ask the CBO for estimate.
The legislation offers some significant changes for an estimated 87% of private insurance health care plans — impacting private health insurance plans that offer abortion coverage even if that coverage is paid for from your own personal funds. In addition, small businesses that offer health plans that cover abortions would no longer be eligible for the Small Business Health Tax Credit–potentially worth 35%-50% of the cost of their premiums– threatening 4 million small businesses. Self-employed Americans who are able to deduct the cost of their comprehensive health insurance from their taxable income will also be denied similar tax credits and face higher taxes.
Yep, that’s transparency.
All that aside, there was one question that the House had to vote on before the final vote … a question of whether to permit any health plan to charge women higher premiums than men for coverage under such health plan.
It was a question that NPR reported on soon after Jason Lewis and Donald Trump were elected :
Some women have been worried that they will lose insurance coverage for contraception under the Trump administration, but coverage for other women’s health benefits could also be at risk.
In 2009, the year before the health law passed, just 13 percent of individual plans available to a 30-year-old woman living in a state capital offered maternity benefits, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.
Some plans offered maternity services as an add-on through a special rider that paid a fixed amount, sometimes just a few thousand dollars, the study found. But even with a rider, a woman’s financial exposure could be significant: The total payment for a vaginal birth was $18,329 in 2010, according to a study by Truven Health Analytics.
Before ObamaCare, women were also generally charged higher rates for health insurance than men on the individual market. According to the law center’s analysis, 60 percent of best-selling individual plans in 2009 charged a 40-year-old nonsmoking woman more than a 40-year-old man who smoked, even in plans that didn’t include any type of maternity coverage.
That inequity disappeared under the health law, which prohibited insurers from charging women higher rates than men for the same services.
During the floor debate, Members heard that overall, gender rating cost American women about $1 billion a year. It also harmed businesses with predominantly female employees who were routinely charged more for their insurance coverage.
Before the ACA, women were forced to pay significantly more than men for essentially the same insurance.
For example, a 25-year-old woman in Arkansas was charged 81 percent more than a man for similar coverage. A 40-year-old woman in South Dakota was charged over $1,200 more a year than a 40-year-old man for the same coverage. In Kentucky, women were charged 57 percent more than men for the same coverage. In Texas, they were charged 56 percent more. In Illinois, women were charged 55 percent more than men for the same coverage. In Indiana, they were charged 54 percent more.
OK … so it’s a pretty transparent question … should policies be allowed to revert back to allowing the insurance market to dictate pricing based on gender ?
The answer was revealed in the Roll Call … every Republican who voted — 235 including CongressMAN Jason Lewis, Third District CongressMAN Erik Paulsen and Sixth District CongressMAN Tom Emmer –said that’s not a problem … while every Democrat who voted — 187 — said … that is wrong.
In the end, HR 7, “Violating the Rights of Women Act of 2017” was approved.
In the shadow of HR 7, Congress is moving ahead with repealing ObamaCare … and as Reuters is reporting “Health insurers quietly shape ObamaCare replacement with fewer risks” — hmmm … whose “risks” are they trying to protect … the policyholder or the insurance company ?
They emphasize that it is crucial to keep government subsidies for low income people.
These changes, described by executives, high level officials in the health insurance sector and lawmakers in nearly a dozen interviews with Reuters, include pushing for more strict enforcement of eligibility for these plans.
OK … so the insurance company gets protected by subsidies and increases enforcement of who gets the policies.
Sounds like a win for the insurance companies.
Meanwhile, “replacement” proposals are being filed — four Republican Senators have sponsored S. 191 The Patient Freedom Act which may soon have a companion bill that may be offered by CongressMAN Pete Sessions.
And what is in that bill directly reverses what ObamaCare did by establishing “basic health coverage” without gender pricing…
What counts as “basic” health coverage?
The bill eliminates “essential health benefits” the ACA requires insurers to offer as part of all plans they sell. Those are non-negotiables, such as paying for hospitalization, outpatient care and pregnancy and maternity care. Critics of the ACA say this requirement forces Americans to pay for coverage they don’t need and can’t afford. But supporters of the law are worried that without this requirement, insurers will sell barebones plans. Stein points out that even though the bill still prevents insurers from imposing lifetime caps, the loss of essential health benefits renders that protection meaningless, because the caps would apply only to covered services.
We also don’t know exactly how high the deductibles would be for that basic health plan.
Well, let’s hope in the spirit of transparency that District Director Dwyer schedules a Jason Lewis Town Hall in Northfield to discuss this bill.
And to pay for The Patient Freedom Act … well, taxes are maintained … essentially acknowledging that the excise tax on medical devices, which “Representative” Lewis opposes (he is a sponsor of the repeal bill HR 184), as well as the “Cadillac tax” (which would be repealed by HR 173 The Middle Class Health Benefits Repeal Act of 2017) and “tanning tax” ( in previous sessions, Tom Emmer and John Kline sponsored repeal efforts) are necessary to offset the costs of whatever program is enacted.
So, another week has passed … Jason Lewis has sponsored no new bills … cast four votes as the House was essentially in session for a day and a half (including the aforementioned “Violating the Rights of Women Act of 2017” … and collected his $3,346.15 weekly salary … but the good news is that twelve constituents got to meet with Jason Lewis’ District Director.