For the last eight years, we have watched our elected officials introduce and pass health care legislation. We advocated that any bill should protect our citizens with the least means and the most health needs. We are again advocating that any changes to the current health care coverage protect the most vulnerable around us.
What is the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Missouri?
The Affordable Care Act, while far from perfect, has resulted in substantial declines in the number of people in our community who are uninsured. In the years since the ACA was passed, the number of uninsured people in Kansas and Missouri has decreased by nearly 300,000. Had Missouri and Kansas expanded Medicaid, that number would total closer to an estimated 700,000.
Against this backdrop, the Health Forward Foundation appeals to our elected leaders to preserve what has worked about the ACA and improve upon what hasn’t.
There are countless opportunities for new legislation to better our health care. For starters, the bill could include prevention strategies like creating environments for everyone to eat healthy, live actively, and avoid tobacco and other harmful substances. This would reduce our country’s health care costs, which continue to grow at a clip that far outpaces the economy.
The health insurance marketplace is another critical piece of our health insurance coverage system, but it has failed to stabilize as envisioned. The marketplaces have seen dwindling numbers of insurers and increases in premiums that make coverage unaffordable for too many. Certain financial tools in the ACA were intended to stabilize the private insurance market and slow the growth of premiums over time. However, they were never funded by Congress. Following through on that funding would be an immediate system improvement. Ensuring the continuation of cost-sharing reductions would be another.
Instead of discussing these viable solutions, conversations surrounding the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the newly released Better Care Reconciliation Act have legislators scrapping much of what worked about the ACA. Most alarmingly, both bills would impose per-capita caps on Medicaid and reduce Medicaid funding by more than $830 billion over 10 years. This represents a fundamental shift in the construction of our health care safety net, a system that has been in place for more than 50 years.
Block grant proposals would be the equivalent of hitting the “pause” button in our states: we will be frozen as we are — without Medicaid expansion and with low eligibility levels for consumers. Other states — like Kentucky and Iowa — that have expanded Medicaid and eligibility will have the advantage and may receive more federal funding.
It is important, as this debate progresses, that we encourage our federal delegation to think of the long-term goals we all share: people healthy enough to work, raise families and fully participate in their communities.