The American Health Care Act (AHCA) – a Republican response to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare – was hastily passed by the U.S. House Thursday, when votes reached a critical tipping point. To become law, the AHCA must still get enough votes in the Senate.
But what does the AHCA mean for you? For starters, it repeals the individual and employer mandates that are part of Obamacare, increases the cap on what insurers can charge older Americans, and adds what is supposed to be an offset – an age-based tax credit to help cover the costs of rising premiums.
Also under AHCA, states would be able to opt out of the old Obamacare regulations that say what insurers must cover. And under the plan approved yesterday, there’s a pot of money set aside – about $23 billion – to help states set up high-risk pools to help those with pre-existing and chronic conditions pay for what are likely to be increased healthcare premiums.
The Dallas Morning News reports that 187,000 Texans enrolled in the Obamacare individual market have pre-existing conditions, and their needs alone exceed the amount of money set aside for that purpose in the AHCA.
Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, a professor at the Mexican-American and Latino Studies department at the University of Texas at Austin, says the AHCA finally passed because Republicans from different parts of the party found a way to agree on the AHCA in order to achieve their greater goal of repealing Obamacare.
“We had two legislators who came together and said ‘We have to get this done,'” DeFrancesco Soto says. “One is more of a Tea Party type of representative, and the other who was a more moderate Republican.”
DeFrancesco Soto says Texas will be less affected by one aspect of the AHCA than other states will.
“In Texas, we were one of about two dozen states that did not take the Medicaid expansion,” she says. “Because to be quite honest, you can’t miss what you didn’t have in the first place.”
In states that did take the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, the impact could be severe, DeFrancesco Soto says.
“[The] AHCA bill cuts that Medicaid expansion for states who did take it, doesn’t allow any new folks to enroll,” DeFrancesco Soto says. “So the states that are going to be hardest hit politically are going to be those states like Arizona, Nevada, Indiana – your red states, like Texas, but that did have the Medicaid expansion. You’re going to have a lot of angry folks who are saying ‘hey, I’ve got health care now, and wait, suddenly I don’t.'”
Of the 20 Republicans who voted against the AHCA, Will Hurd, who represents Texas’ 23rd district, was the only Texan. DeFrancesco Soto says this AHCA issue is one of many that require Hurd to balance allegiance to his party with the needs and demographics of his district.
“[On] this and many other issues, he’s always walking that tightrope,” DeFrancesco Soto says.”He knows the needs of his constituents. Let’s remember that this is a majority-minority district – very heavily Latino district. And a lot of these folks are in need of that health care coverage.”
AHCA next heads to the U.S. Senate, where passage remains uncertain. Texas’ two senators, Ted Cruz, who is seeking reelection in 2018, and John Cornyn, have been solidly behind Obamacare repeal. DeFrancesco Soto says they are unlikely to change those positions or face much backlash at home.
“Texas, as a whole, is still a strongly Republican state,” DeFrancesco Soto says. “So I think in that sense, Cruz and Cornyn are safe. Cruz is going to have to run a good race, but I think ultimately, he will win because of the partisan advantage and second, because of that point I made about you not being able to miss what you never had in the first place.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.