Illustration by Owen Thomas
Illustration by Owen Thomas

The new Republican House effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA) hurts nearly every constituent the politicians proposing it were elected to serve. It doesn’t protect consumer rights. It doesn’t expand coverage to the poor, elderly or sick. In fact, the bill does virtually nothing one would expect a healthcare bill to accomplish.

The AHCA is the Republican House plan to repeal and replace the ACA passed under former President Barack Obama. The plan includes severe cutbacks to healthcare consumer rights, higher premium costs for the sick and elderly and cutbacks on federal entitlement programs, while providing huge tax cuts for the wealthy. It dismantles the progress and advancements achieved under the ACA.

Republican leaders tout the bill as a potential savings for American taxpayers. Rollbacks in Medicaid — a type of federal and state welfare program for low-income individuals — could cut Medicaid spending by more than $800 billion over 10 years.

But with these cuts, 14 million people will lose Medicaid coverage. In total, cutbacks on social welfare programs would strip health insurance from 24 million people by 2026 if the AHCA passes, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Healthcare coverage isn’t something that should be chopped away for tax savings — it is a human right.

The new legislation would also wage war on women’s health. Planned Parenthood, which provides a variety of preventative healthcare services annually, would lose federal funding for a full year. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from sexual assault, postpartum depression or even cesarean sections could be considered pre-existing conditions under the AHCA, which would allow insurers to charge higher premiums.

There is little reason to think that this affront to women’s health in the AHCA will change once it enters the Senate. The committee working on the bill includes 13 men and no women. The five Republican female senators were passed over when committee member selections were made.

HIV would be classified as a pre-existing condition. Cancer would be classified as a pre-existing condition. Eating disorders, drug and alcohol addictions, acne, Alzheimer’s, dementia, migraines — a list of over 50 ailments, diseases and conditions — would all be considered pre-existing conditions. This means 130 million Americans would be placed into “high-risk pools” and could be slapped with insurance premiums as high as $25,700 annually.

Worst of all, though the bill does not expressly eliminate current mandates for companies to insure people with such pre-existing conditions, it does allow for states to scale back the benefits insurers must cover. Under the AHCA, people with severe pre-existing conditions could see higher premiums and serious lifetime limitations on their level of coverage.

This is just a short list of the ways in which the AHCA undermines people’s access to affordable healthcare. People across socio-economic classes, genders, ethnic identities, age and health statuses will suffer if this bill becomes a law.

The current ACA offers vital consumer protection rights. Insurers cannot use a person’s health or age to increase their general healthcare prices, and crucial items like contraception must be covered by insurers.

These are benefits we must protect and strengthen, not strip away. Congress should improve upon the advancements made by the ACA. Repealing the ACA and replacing it with a law allowing lesser coverage plans simply to win a partisan political victory and provide tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans is immoral. It is the antithesis of the government’s goal to improve people’s lives.

Luckily for us, there is still time to save the ACA and end the monstrosity of the AHCA. The bill narrowly passed through the House of Representatives, and now it will have to pass in the Senate, where Republicans only hold 52 of 100 seats. With likely no Democrats willing to support the bill, this decision will be made by only two Republican votes — votes that can be swayed by the public.

Call members of the Senate to voice your dissent. Go to town hall meetings. Do anything you can to practice your right to democracy and aid in the destruction of a bill that could disenfranchise millions of people from a basic human right.

If all else fails, show up to the ballot box in upcoming midterm elections and send anyone associated with the AHCA packing. Anyone who would consider such a bill a sufficient form of healthcare does not care about their constituents and should not represent the people.