Latta gets way on ACA repeal, but future of bill is uncertain

Local citizens talk about ACA concerns in Bob Latta's office in February.

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

U.S. Rep. Robert Latta (R-Bowling Green) is throwing his support behind the House proposal aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act, and replacing it with a new plan.

Latta, who has voted numerous times to repeal what is known as Obamacare, issued a statement Tuesday.

“Obamacare has failed and it keeps getting worse as insurance marketplaces collapse and costs continue to rise. It’s time to repeal its broken promises and replace it with patient-centered health care. The plan proposed in the House will give Americans more choices, lower costs, and provides states with more flexibility to help repair markets damaged by Obamacare.”

His spokesman Drew Griffin said the congressman was not available for an interview.

A Bowling Green State University political science professor, however, questions the feasibility of the proposal and its political future. When Russell Mills saw the proposal that was released last night, he wondered:  “How are they going to pay for it?”

Russell Millls (BGSU photo)

Transforming subsidies into tax credits, he said, is a wash.

“What they did was keep the most expensive parts of Obamacare but didn’t provide a way to pay for them,” Mills said.

The proposal will allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26. And it continues to stop insurance companies from refusing to insure people because of pre-existing medical conditions. And it maintains, at least for a few years, the expansion of Medicaid to help people with low incomes.

But the funding to the states to support that Medicaid funding will get less generous after a few years. “I think they believe they’ll realize the savings by trimming the Medicaid portion of the ACA,” Mills said.

The changes to the Medicaid expansion has already prompted four Republican senators from states that accepted that money to question the bill. That includes Ohio Sen. Rob Portman who came out “pretty immediately and said he had concerns about the House proposal.”

Mills questions some of the assumptions. The bill would remove the penalty for people and businesses not having health insurance. The proposal would instead provide a tax incentive to encourage people to buy insurance.

If that doesn’t work, and the pool of those getting insured is less healthy, that would drive up rates for everyone.

While the plan has attracted the expected opposition from Democrats, and some from moderate Republicans, it has also generated opposition from more libertarian Republicans who have dubbed the proposal “Obamacare-lite.”

“This is really not much of a big alteration,” Mills said.

The political calculations surrounding the bill are tricky, he said. Some estimates have 15 million people losing coverage because of it. Many of those are in states that voted for Trump. The president’s enthusiasm will play a big part in how well the plan fares, he said.

“In the House, they’ll have enough vote to get it passed,” Mills said.

Still representatives are going to face a difficult choice. Many have come back from their districts where they held town hall meetings – something Latta refused to do – and “90 percent of what they heard about was health insurance.”

In a year and half they will have to face those voters again with some of them having lost their insurance coverage.

“This will be a tough sell,” Mills said. “Once people start framing the different aspects of the bill, there’ll more angst and confusion and that will drive outrage.”

The Senate is a tougher sell with the Republicans having a much narrower margin. Already those four senators have expressed reservations. “That’s going to stop the bill in its tracks,” he said.

“There’s no easy way to do this,” Mills said. “Once you have a program like ACA, it’s really hard to wind it back without causing political damage to somebody.”

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