Governor Wolf’s Cabinet Details Devastating Effects of the AHCA on Pennsylvanians

March 22, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf’s cabinet secretaries from the departments of Health, Human Services, Insurance, and Aging spoke with reporters today in advance of the U.S. House of Representatives’ planned Thursday vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The discussion centered on the devastating effects of the legislation on Pennsylvanians.

“Replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the AHCA is bad for Pennsylvania,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas. “Because of the ACA, more than 719,000 Pennsylvanians now have health care who were not previously eligible. It is not by accident that the ACA helped Pennsylvanians.

“The AHCA could potentially add an additional $3 billion to our current deficit, leaving the state to decide which individuals should be eligible for health care; those are choices that no one should have to face.”

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller outlined the effects of Monday night’s revisions to the AHCA by the House Republicans.

“It is reported that if approved, the amendment would add enough tax cuts to allow the Senate to swap out the cuts to create a reserve fund of $75 billion to provide tax credits for older Americans, but it is unclear exactly how this money would be allocated,” Miller said.

Miller said that the extra funding for senior tax cuts could help offset costs if applied correctly, but it still does not address the core concerns many have with the law, including expanding age ratings for seniors to up to five times what young people pay and shifting health care costs from premiums to out-of-pocket costs such as copays and deductibles that disproportionately affect people when they are sick, injured, or simply need more care.

“The bottom line is that there are still too many unanswered questions,” Miller said. “The House is trying to force this plan through so they can say they repealed the Affordable Care Act on the anniversary of when it was signed into law.”

The ACA was signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010.

“This legislation that impacts millions of Americans deserves more time and transparency than the AHCA is allowing,” Miller said. “There must be time given for the Congressional Budget Office to score the amended legislation so that information may be properly considered.

Department of Health Secretary Karen Murphy discussed the impact of the AHCA on the state’s public health system.

“The AHCA does far more than just repeal a health insurance program,” Murphy said. “It would have a devastating impact on Pennsylvania’s public health services and our health systems – particularly our most vulnerable residents.”

The plan set forth by the Republicans dissolves the Prevention and Public Health Fund after October 2018.

It also strips away more than $22 million a year from state and local health departments, meaning children and adults in need might not be able to get important vaccines; efforts in preventing chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity would be severely hampered; access to life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings for eligible, underserved women could be reduced; and the daily health care needs of more than three million Pennsylvanians who live in rural areas would be threatened with elimination.

“What’s most disconcerting is that our ability to prepare and respond to health emergencies would be severely hampered without the funding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides to Pennsylvania each year,” Murphy added.

The dissolution of the Prevention and Public Health Fund reduces the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) budget by 12 percent, leaving Pennsylvania with far-less funding through its many CDC grants and partnerships. The funding supports nearly one third of the department’s staff who respond to infectious disease outbreaks.

These outbreaks include Lyme disease and the Zika virus, but also hospital-acquired infections, outbreaks such as the recent pertussis and mumps infections, and even the flu surveillance program.

Department of Aging Secretary Teresa Osborne stressed how the AHCA may dramatically increase health care costs for seniors just below the level of income for Medicare eligibility.

“Under the AHCA people between the ages of 55 and 64 can be charged up to five times more than younger adults for the same coverage,” Osborne said.

“It’s imperative that we understand how the American Health Care Act will harm Pennsylvania’s seniors, many of whom rely upon Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act in order to lead healthy lives and age well. The AHCA will eliminate an important consumer protection that ensures seniors who do not yet qualify for Medicare have access to affordable health insurance coverage.

“The AHCA weakens Medicare and stands to exhaust the Medicare Trust Fund in just seven years, greatly diminishing Medicare’s ability to pay for services for seniors.”

The Wolf Administration stressed that even without knowing the full financial cost of the proposed American Health Care Act, the human costs are clear and devastating, often to Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable populations.

In advance of tomorrow’s planned U.S. House vote, Governor Wolf is strongly urging the Pennsylvania delegation to vote “no” on the AHCA. Read the letter sent to the delegation here.

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