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Create pathways to health care, not barriers

March 27th, 2017

By: Jessica Shappley l The Clarion-Ledger

As a candidate, President Trump promised to “make health insurance available to everyone” and to “expand choice, increase access, lower costs and, at the same time, provide better health care.” The American Health Care Act violates these promises — and would result in millions losing coverage and higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs for those who remain insured.

The AHCA would not only end the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision but go further by ending all of Medicaid as we know it — shifting costs to states, hurting local economies, and putting at risk quality coverage for seniors, those with disabilities and families with kids. If Congress ultimately decides to reverse the gains created through the ACA, it will undoubtedly result in negative consequences for individuals and families, particularly in one of the most impoverished states in the nation.

From 2010-2015, more than 16 million people in the United States gained access to health insurance coverage through the ACA, including 161,000 in Mississippi. This is in large part due to the creation of the Health Insurance Marketplace, the ability for young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until the age of 26, and the requirement that everyone purchase a health insurance plan, in addition to the 31 states and District of Columbia that opted to expand Medicaid.

Under the ACA, the Health Insurance Marketplace provides an opportunity for residents under the age of 65 to qualify for tax credits, based on the poverty level, to help make private insurance more affordable. Tax credits are typically available for people who are not eligible for any other health insurance coverage. In Mississippi, estimates show one in four (25 percent) of uninsured nonelderly adults were eligible for tax credits to purchase coverage through the Marketplace.

According to The State of Health Coverage in the Mid South, a recent policy brief from the Hope Policy Institute, nearly 80,000 Mississippi residents gained health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace last year. This represents over one-quarter (26 percent) of those eligible for some type of coverage in the state. Access to health insurance not only improves the health outcomes of individuals and families, but it also helps grow the local economy through increased demand for health care, which is vitally important for rural communities and hospitals.

The State of Health Coverage in the Mid South approximates that 372,400 (15 percent) nonelderly Mississippians (ages 0-64) still remain without health insurance coverage. To put into perspective, Mississippi has the third lowest rate of private health insurance coverage (53 percent) and the fourth highest uninsured rate (15 percent) in the U.S. Therefore, the current legislative attempt to overhaul the ACA not only threatens access to health care for the thousands of Mississippians who gained coverage because of the ACA, but it will also put many Mississippi families on the brink of financial disaster without the ability to pay for health care.

Recent analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a national public policy think-tank, suggests that under the latest ACA repeal and replacement legislation, the same tax credits that help people purchase premiums would fall sharply in Mississippi — by $2,316 — by 2020. This, coupled with the fact that average premiums would rise, and that out-of-pocket health care costs (deductibles, copays, and coinsurance) would increase by an average of $4,127 in Mississippi, means health insurance coverage would become inaccessible for both those who gained access through the ACA and those in need of access altogether.

Rather than limit health insurance coverage for Mississippians and the rest of the nation, lawmakers and health care leaders should find ways to widen the pathway to health insurance coverage already created under the ACA, not eliminate it.

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