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Critics: GOP Health Care Policy "Would Not Work" For Most

The GOP-led Congress is struggling to find a workable replacement for the Affordable Care Act. (Office of The Architect Of The U.S. Capital)
The GOP-led Congress is struggling to find a workable replacement for the Affordable Care Act. (Office of The Architect Of The U.S. Capital)
February 13, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A key mechanism likely to be part of the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would not work for most West Virginians, according to analysis.

GOP plans to replace Obamacare look likely to substitute health savings accounts (HSAs) for the subsidies in the insurance exchanges.

Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, says the idea is people could put thousands of dollars in the accounts and then get a tax break if the money is only used for health care. But she says most people can't afford to put the money aside ahead of time.

"They're really of no use to people who are lower income, because they don't have the money to put into it, they're not going to see that tax benefit,” she points out. “So you are not really helping low and moderate-income Americans that are having the harder time affording their medical care."

Republicans in Congress have long attacked the ACA as undermining free markets. But they are struggling to find a workable replacement.

West Virginia is one of the states with the largest increase in households gaining health coverage since the passage of Obamacare – most of them members of the working poor.

Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, says if Congress tries to use HSAs as a substitute for the subsidies in the exchanges, many of those families will be kicked off of their insurance.

"Health savings accounts are good for very wealthy, healthy people,” he states. “But they are not a good way to provide health care for a majority of West Virginians."

According to a Washington Post projection from a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, for every 455 people who lose health insurance, one more person dies prematurely each year.

Gould says people not having access to health- are has a cost in dollars and in lives.

"If people have to pay too much for their health care, often times they will go without,” she stresses. “And when they go without, their health suffers, and in the long run it can cost more. It can cost the system more."

Expansion of HSAs are included in several Obamacare replacement bills, including one sponsored by GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV