Healthcare confusion is a good excuse to take care of yourself
The Short Version
After a party-line vote during a late-night session of Congress allowed for the complete dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, joined by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation, released a statement yesterday saying that repealing the healthcare law without a replacement would result in 18 million more uninsured Americans. However, that assessment was made on previous legislation. No new legislation has been submitted yet and the president-elect has promised “universal coverage.” With all the confusion, the best advice, for now, is to take care of yourself and not expect anything from Congress.
A Little More Detail
Congress scared a lot of people last week when it passed a bill changing the rules for repealing the Affordable Care Act. The vote was largely along party lines, 51-48, and came in the wee hours of Thursday morning while most Americans were sound asleep. At first, because a protective clause regarding pre-existing conditions and other coverage was removed from the nonbinding resolution, many people were under the impression that coverage for pre-existing conditions had been removed. It hadn’t. All the resolution did was make it easier for Congress to repeal existing healthcare legislation by allowing the Senate to pass such a bill with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes currently required.
Still, mention healthcare and one suddenly has the attention of millions of Americans who would not have any insurance coverage without the Affordable Care Act. So, the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation took a look at the last bill in which Congress attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and calculated the cost. Their determination was that should Congress follow a similar pattern and repeal the law without any replacement, insurance costs would soar and 18 million people who currently have coverage would lose it within the first year. Were no replacement offered, the number of uninsured Americans would swell to 56 million by 2026. One has to admit those are pretty scary numbers.
However, there is currently no serious bill before Congress that would gut the Affordable Care Act. At this point, the House of Representatives is still arguing over smaller, more petty details and the Senate is fully consumed in hearings for Cabinet appointees. Any omnibus bill that would completely repeal the Affordable Care Act with any hope of receiving the president’s signature is still several months away.
Add to that the promise of GOP leaders to retain the pre-existing condition coverage and the president-elect’s promise for universal coverage and the waters get even more muddy. If the incoming president is going to hold out for a replacement plan that covers everyone, then Congress has to dramatically alter its approach away from anything they proposed last year. This could potentially set the stage for disagreement between the president and congressional leaders, further delaying any kind of repeal and replace legislation.
At this point, there is absolutely no certainty of any kind as to how Congress might actually handle changes to the healthcare laws. The confusion is frustrating and leaves millions of Americans in limbo regarding long-term healthcare.
Time To Self-Medicate
Given all the confusion and uncertainty regarding the healthcare laws, doctors are taking a more cautious approach and advising patients to maintain current medication and to take more responsibility for their personal health where it is reasonable to do so. Here are some of the recommendations being offered:
- See your physician for a regular checkup, making sure prescriptions and treatment plans are up-to-date.
- Make sure all scheduled vaccinations are up-to-date.
- Maintain a healthy diet that is appropriate to both your age and physical needs. Not everyone should eat the same things.
- Stay active with an appropriate exercise plan that does not present a high level of risk.
- Avoid high-risk activities where possible. Now is not the time to undertake something that might leave one in need of long-term healthcare.
- Stay away from unproven forms of “alternative” medicines that could complicate healthcare.
- Those in high-risk categories, such as the very young and very old, should avoid contact with highly infectious environments and limit some public activities during high-risk seasons.
In short: don’t get sick. There is no promise that anyone will be covered for any form of healthcare in the future, regardless of what Congress and the president-elect might say. Taking responsibility for your own healthcare and that of your children is something we all should be doing anyway. It probably doesn’t hurt to start a savings account to use in the event of a medical catastrophe, such as a car accident or a rabid squirrel attack if you can afford to do so.
We’ve not lost everything yet, but to the degree we can prepare for the worst we are better off.