Senate GOP health bill: Tax cuts for rich, hardship for elderly and poor

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Republicans’ new health bill cuts taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, mostly for corporations and the richest families in America.

It uses a budget gimmick to comply with Senate rules against adding to the federal government’s long-term debt.

Senate Republican leaders unveiled a draft of their bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law June 22 and argued it would eliminate job-killing taxes enacted under the 7-year-old health law. Democrats countered that the bill is a giveaway to the rich at the expense of middle- and low-income families who will lose health insurance.

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else,” Obama said in a Facebook post.

On Tuesday, President Trump met with Republican Senators in the East Room of the White House to talk about the bill.

“So we’re going to talk and we’re going to see what we can do. We’re getting very close,” he said.

Trump blamed the Affordable Care Act for the rising insurance rates and discussed his continued mission to repeal it. He also went on to blast Democrats for apposing the bill.

“The other side is saying all sorts of things before they even knew what the bill was,” Trump stated. “This will be great if we get it done. And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like. And that’s okay, and I understand that very well.”

Under the new bill, 22 million people would lose coverage. By 2026, an estimated 49 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the ACA, according to a study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The study also showed that the average marketplace enrollee in 2026, the BCRA would raise their total costs, including net premiums plus cost sharing, by $2,294 – hitting the near-elderly and low-income citizens the hardest.

“The news from the Congressional Budget Office that the Senate’s secret backroom deal to repeal health care will cost 22 million Americans their coverage proves one thing: Republicans are only interested in providing huge tax breaks to the wealthy, not in protecting our health,” expressed Leon W. Russell, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors.

“The reality is that communities of color will be particularly hard hit by Trumpcare. Under this bill, insurers could charge [older] African Americans and other seniors as much as five times what they charge young adults for coverage.

“And all the while, Trumpcare will give nearly $700 billion to big corporations and the wealthy, including with a special tax loophole for health insurance companies that pay their CEOs many times more than the joint income of the average Black family.

“During his campaign, President Donald Trump asked African American communities across this nation what we would have to lose by voting for him. And today, the answer is this – our health.”

Russell urged Republican lawmakers to keep what works in the ACA and fix what doesn’t. Otherwise, during the next election “African Americans would remember the elected officials who put tax breaks for the one-percent ahead of quality, affordable health care for all.”

Senate Republicans released only a draft of their bill, with no analysis and no cost estimates. However, the tax cuts are very similar to those in the House bill passed last month, though some would be delayed to pay for more generous benefits.

The major tax provisions in the bill would:

•Delay a new “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health insurance plans until 2026. This is a budget gimmick to ensure that the bill complies with Senate rules that forbid the legislation from adding to the federal government’s long-term debt.

The tax was part of the ACA. On paper, the tax would take effect in 2026, generating billions of dollars in revenue every year after.

However, Congress has already delayed the tax once, until 2020, making it unlikely lawmakers will ever let it take effect. In 2026, it will be somebody else’s problem.

• Repeal a tax on wealthy investors, saving them about $172 billion over the next decade.

The ACA enacted an additional 3.8 percent tax on investment income for married couples making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $125,000. The Senate bill would repeal the tax this year.

About 90 percent of the benefit from repealing the tax would go to the top 1 percent of earners, who make $700,000 or more, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

•Repeal a new Medicare payroll tax on high-income families, saving them about $59 billion over the next decade. Obama’s health law enacted an additional 0.9 percent payroll tax on wages above $250,000 for married couples and above $125,000 for individuals. The Senate bill would repeal the tax in 2023.

•Repeal a tax penalty on larger employers not providing health insurance to workers, saving them $171 billion over the next decade.

•Repeal a tax penalty for people who do not get health insurance, saving them $38 billion over the next decade.

•Repeal a new annual fee on health providers, based on market share, saving them about $145 billion over the next decade.

•Repeal a 2.3 percent excise tax on companies that make or import medical devices, saving them around $19 billion over the next decade. The Senate bill would repeal the tax in 2018 – a year later than the House bill.

•Repeal a 10 percent excise tax on tanning services, saving people $621 million over the next decade.

The NAACP has urged U.S. citizens to contact their state senators to block the BCRA and make the necessary improvements on the ACA, and has set up a website at http://action.naacp.org/page/ speakout/health-care-is-looming with senator contact information and an optional script.

Robyn H. Jimenez/The Dallas Examiner contributed to this report.

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