Trumpcare is devastating for older Mainers, but it’s pretty awful for young people too
When the Republican-written replacement for the Affordable Care Act was unleashed upon the world last week, the immediate reactions ranged rightfully from skeptical to outraged. Since the unveiling, the bill has been reviewed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, who determined that the legislation would ultimately lead to 24 million more people being left uninsured in the coming years, increased premiums for many more and hundreds of billions of dollars in new tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy.
Truly, there is a lot in this bill to be unhappy about.
However, as House Republicans led by Speaker Paul Ryan attempt to change the negative narrative surrounding the bill, a curious—and toxic— silver lining has been touted: the bill could eventually moderately reduce premiums for younger Americans, by perhaps 20%. The bill does this by allowing insurers to offer lower-quality plans than currently allowed, and by dramatically increasing the allowable price gap between coverage for older and younger Americans, giving insurers the power to charge the elderly a full five-times the rate paid by younger customers for the same level of coverage.
Nevermind that the young, God-willing, will eventually become the old and face then the hardships that our elders would face now. More fundamentally, the idea that America’s youth do not intersect with low-income individuals who would be crippled by the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion is a laughable premise. So is the idea that flooding the market with substandard insurance products wouldn’t devastate a young person who has a disability or who develops a serious or chronic illness. And so is the idea that defunding Planned Parenthood (which this bill would also do) wouldn’t be catastrophic for young women.
The content of this bill only gets contorted into a win for young people if you assume that young people would in no way bear the costs of the myriad other inequities of the legislation: that no young person is poor, has a disability, or is a woman.
The reality is that the only group that clearly comes out ahead from this bill, increasingly being dubbed Trumpcare, are the wealthiest 2% of Americans who would reap an estimated $285 billion tax break while the rest of us see lower-quality and higher-cost care. Painting this as anything other than a blatant giveaway to the rich at the expense of everyone else ignores the basic intersectionality of the inequality that Americans of all ages face along the lines of race, class, sex, gender, orientation, or disability.
Siloing oppressed or vulnerable people off into age brackets and pitting them against each other is a brutal trick by those who would profit off of that division. We need to be wise enough to see through the ruse and stand together against a truly awful piece of legislation.
Photo: Diane Grandmaison of the Alliance for Retired Americans speaks at a January press conference in Bangor.
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