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Friday, April 28, 2017

Health Care Consumers on Trump’s First 100 Days

Cate Bonacini

Director of Storytelling Initiatives

Saturday marks the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. Before taking office, Candidate Trump promised that "everybody's going to be taken care of," that there will be "insurance for everybody," and that he would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

While President Trump hasn’t succeeded in repealing the Affordable Care Act, each new bill, amendment, regulation, tweet, or headline spurs a new wave of anxiety for the people who depend on the protections under the ACA for their health care.

Consumers are still struggling to make sense of what will happen to the provisions that translate into life-saving care for them. 

What does this look like? It’s a parent of a child with hemophilia regularly scanning articles to see if each Republican repeal amendment will bring back lifetime caps. Or a self-employed real estate agent actively battling lymphoma, wondering if she can continue to rely on being able to find a plan that won’t discriminate against her. 

At the core of Families USA’s mission is putting the consumer voice front and center in debates about health care. And since Election Day, I’ve been talking to people around the country to help ensure that their voices are heard and represented in Washington. 

With each new development, I hear from people who ask: Will I have health care tomorrow? And if so, will I be able to afford it?

People like Pamela, who represents one of the 24 million consumers who stand to lose their health coverage if President Trump succeeds in repealing the ACA.

The proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act fill Pamela with fear for herself and her family

The day after the GOP released their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Pamela sat down at her desk to read the plan, hoping to understand how it would impact her family. When she finished, she put her head down and cried, “How am I going to go ahead?”

At 63, Pamela serves as an independent contractor and she helps to run an organization that supports small businesses. Before the ACA, she was unable to afford the plans offered on the private market. It was only after Minnesota opened its health insurance marketplace (MNSure) and she purchased a plan with premium assistance that she was able to receive care.

But it’s not just her health care she needs to worry about—she’s also the guardian of her 13-year-old granddaughter. “If Medicaid is cut, my granddaughter will be without health care too.”

Now, looking at the House Republicans’ repeal bill, Pamela says, “I will not be able to afford health insurance.” She predicts the cost increase would be so substantial that she would be forced to drop coverage altogether.

If that happens, Pamela says, “I will pray to the Creator that I am okay until I hit Medicare.”

Anita worries about how she will care for her quadriplegic husband

Anita and Jeff live outside of Minneapolis. Jeff was left a quadriplegic due to a spinal cord injury and relies on Medicare. His wife, Anita retired early several years ago and now serves as his full-time caregiver. Thanks to the ACA, Anita was able to purchase a plan with a subsidy through MNSure.

When Anita read through the Republican repeal proposal, she started working back-of-the-envelope calculations, ticking off how each of the provisions would affect their family.  Anita estimates that-- between the switch to a tax credit and age rating--her premiums would increase more than $11,000.

The Health Savings Account (HSA) would be useless, since after necessary expenses, there’s little left at the end of the month to put in an account. She says that what she could save would be a drop in the bucket in the face of a serious emergency or illness.

Between housing, transportation, food, and health care, Jeff’s medical expenses add up. “He has to pay for Medicare Part B premiums, supplemental plans, out-of-pocket medications, medical supplies, and durable medical equipment.”

For Anita, the coverage she gets through the ACA allows her to care for her husband: “Having comprehensive, affordable health insurance that allows me to stay healthy is key to helping my husband stay off of Medicaid. As long as I remain his caregiver, we are saving the government over $54,000 a year. If illness left me unable to care for him, we would need to impoverish ourselves to qualify for Medicaid.”

Even then, she says that with the threat of per capita caps in Medicaid, she’s unsure whether the kind of long-term care Jeff requires would even be available if it were to get to that point.

Anita says: “We’re making this work now, but the GOP plan would make everything fall apart…President Trump and the GOP have promised to replace the ACA with better, more affordable health care. But their plan does not accomplish this goal.”

Learn about our Protect Our Care campaign, focused on protecting the progress achieved under the Affordable Care Act.