Truth Test: A pile of promises on ACA replacement

Politics guy Brandon Rittiman delivers clear explanation about the Republican replacement plan for Obamacare.

KUSA - Republicans launched yet another national ad this week promoting their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. And this time they promise a lot of specifics.

A version of this ad is running in dozens of different markets around the country. It’s meant to help Republicans in swing districts as they handle questions about what they're doing with healthcare.

In Colorado, the ad is about Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora), but no matter who your congressperson is, this Truth Test should help you learn more about what the GOP replacement plan would and wouldn't do.

RELATED: Coffman rethinks stance on ACA replacement

It opens by telling viewers to “Thank Congressman Mike Coffman for keeping his promise and replacing the affordable care act with better health care you deserve.”

That’s true. Coffman said he would vote for the American Health Care Act in its first draft form. While the plan could change, we're fact checking the details of that first draft.  

CLAIM: The Republican plan would give you more choices.

VERDICT: It depends

If you're shopping for your own plan, you will likely get more choices because the GOP bill removes the bronze, silver and gold plan standards set by the ACA.

That means you'll be able to choose a plan that offers less coverage than the minimums required by Obamacare, and pay more if you get sick.

If you're lower income on Medicaid, you'll likely have fewer choices because the bill would give states less money for Medicaid. Colorado is going to have to decide whether to stop offering it to some people or come up with the money to keep it going.

And if you're like most people and get coverage from work, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the law will encourage some employers to stop offering health plans, but most employees will have about the same choices they do now.

CLAIM: Lower Costs

VERDICT: Not for everyone

Costs of plans offered by employers shouldn't change much, but the individual plans sold on the exchanges would.

There are winners and losers in this bill. Older people are in the "losing" group.

The bill allows plans to charge older patients up to five times more in monthly premiums than younger patients. Obamacare capped the premium increase for age at three times.

“Substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people,” according to the CBO report.

And the Republican bill would change the federal subsidies for buying insurance on the individual market.

The CBO estimated a single person making $26,000 a year would pay:

  • $250 dollars less per year if they're 21 years old.
  • $700 dollars more per year if they're age 40.
  •  $12,900 more per year if they're 64.

If you have a bigger income you could save no matter how old you are because the new tax credits would also be given to people with higher incomes.

The CBO also predicted that overall premiums on the individual market would be higher than they would have been under Obamacare in the first few years, but go up less than they would have after that.

The caveat is deductibles and out-of-pocket costs on those plans will likely be higher than they would have been.

CLAIM: Puts doctors and patients in charge again

VERDICT: Unverifiable

This is rhetoric, and it's too vague to fact check. You're in charge of your healthcare today, and you will be tomorrow.

This debate is about how you'll be covered.

CLAIM: No more big government penalties

VERDICT: False

The bill replaces the Obamacare penalty with a different penalty.

The ACA has a tax penalty if you don't buy insurance. The Republican plan has a 30 percent penalty on individual premiums if you do buy insurance after you've gone without coverage for more than 63 days in a year.

“CBO estimates that the costs of complying with the mandate would be largely offset by the penalties insurers would collect,” according to the report.

It's a different way of trying to pressure you into staying covered.

That penalty would be paid to your insurance company -- not the government -- but the government would require them to charge it.

CLAIM: The Republican plan eliminates job killing mandates

VERDICT: Needs context.

Technically the requirement for people to buy insurance or companies to offer it wouldn't go away.

But the bill would make those mandates toothless because the new penalty only happens if you do buy insurance after going without it.

CLAIM: Real protections for people with pre-existing conditions

VERDICT: Nothing new

This makes the new plan sound better than Obamacare when in fact it's nothing new.

Obamacare banned insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and the Republican plan keeps that rule in place.

BOTTOM LINE:

This ad oversimplifies a complicated plan and spins it to sound like everyone is going to be better off when this plan is likely to be good for some people and bad for others if it becomes law.

The key phrase there is “if it becomes law.”

Because plans change. Just like the Democrats did with Obamacare, Republicans are arguing over what needs to be in its replacement. And the healthcare law we end up with could look a lot different than the first draft.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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