Every day we see more stories in the news about health insurance premiums rising and options for affordable health care disappearing.
People all across Wyoming are rightly concerned about how they will protect their families’ health. So it is no surprise that the debate over health care reform in the Senate is passionate. What is surprising is the amount of misleading rhetoric that has found its way into the debate.
We would like to set the record straight about what the latest Senate proposal will actually do and how it will help the people of Wyoming.
The proposal protects people with pre-existing conditions. It still lets young people stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26 years old. There are still no lifetime limits, and the plan makes no changes to Medicare. And according to initial estimates by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, premiums would be 30 percent lower in 2020 than under current law.
One the most immediate steps it takes is to stabilize the exchanges that many people use to purchase insurance. This year, people living in 70 percent of U.S. counties will have little or no choice of insurers on the exchanges. Next year, at least 40 counties are expected to have no insurer at all on their exchange.
In Wyoming, we have only one insurer and some of the highest premiums in the country. As competition disappears, prices continue to rise. Premiums nationwide have more than doubled over the past four years.
The Senate health care plan shores up these collapsing Obamacare markets that threaten to leave millions of Americans with no affordable options for health care. It also repeals a long list of Obamacare’s taxes, which raised prices even more.
Next, the Senate proposal makes important reforms to Medicaid, to better provide health care for America’s most vulnerable people.
Today Medicaid is adding significantly to our national debt. The Senate bill makes a common-sense change on how states get the money.
Instead of a blank check, future funding is based on the number and types of patients enrolled in Medicaid. This is an idea that previously received bipartisan support. The Senate bill gives states much more flexibility on how to provide services, so they can make the program work better in local communities.
States like Wyoming would get more money than they get now. Under the Senate proposal, Medicaid spending would increase from $393 billion this year to $464 billion in 2027, an 18 percent increase. Only in Washington, D.C., is that considered a cut.
Wyoming has a responsible and well-managed Medicaid program. The Senate proposal would give it more freedom to work even better and would improve the program in the rest of the country.
The Senate plan also closes the coverage gap that Obamacare created. Under the law, millions of low-income Americans get no help paying for their premiums. This includes people making less than $12,000 a year.
In Wyoming, more than 10,000 people who fall into this gap. The Senate plan would make it easier for them to buy private health insurance coverage on the exchange. It also provides financial help to lower-income families struggling to afford the out-of-pocket costs of health care.
Wyoming could expect to see an increase in funding for hospitals that care for the most vulnerable patients. Under Obamacare, our state receives about $2 million in these funds. Under the Senate plan, these payments would total more than $100 million between 2018 and 2026.
America’s health care system is in grave danger. We need reform urgently. This reform should give as much flexibility as possible to patients, families, and states. What works best for California or New York hardly ever works well for Wyoming. Our state should be able to do what works for people here.
As senators, we have worked for many years to find the best answers for health care reform. The best interest of people in Wyoming have always guided our efforts and our votes.
The stakes are high, and the rhetoric is sometimes heated. Now both sides must work together to make sure we give Americans access to the health care they deserve.