While the Trump administration is bogged down by an enlarging Russia scandal, Republican senators are still trying to get enough votes to take away health care from millions upon millions of Americans.
This week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tried to be the hero by proposing the “Consumer Freedom Option” — colloquially known as a the Cruz amendment. This amendment would allow insurers to offer plans that don’t cover essential health benefits, such as mental health services and protections for pre-existing conditions, in addition to plans that comply with the current Affordable Care Act regulations.
On Friday, America’s Health Insurance Plans and BlueCross BlueShield Association joined together to send a scathing letter to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), urging the Senate leaders to strike the Cruz amendment from the bill.
“It is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market,” the letter reads.
BREAKING: In rare joint letter, insurers say Cruz amendment "unworkable in any form" and will lead to "widespread terminations of coverage." pic.twitter.com/hrtKIshIcd
— Topher Spiro (@TopherSpiro) July 15, 2017
The problem with the Cruz amendment is that it would allow healthy people to pick the cheapest plans and cause the price of coverage to skyrocket for those who need more comprehensive coverage.
“This would especially impact middle-income families that are not eligible for a tax credit,” the letter reads. “Taxpayers will pay more to finance federal tax credits for individuals in comprehensive plans and these costs will continue to increase, even with dedicated funding.”
In other words — the Cruz amendment not only won’t solve the existing problems with the BCRA, it will create new ones.
The letter does not mince words about the consequences of this amendment, saying that “this provision will lead to far fewer, if any, coverage options for consumers who purchase their plan in the individual market. As a result, millions of more individuals will become uninsured.”
According to the Huffington Post, the letter is noteworthy because “AHIP, in particular, has a relatively conservative outlook and tends to have close relationships with Republicans.”
The BCRA is still the most unpopular bill in three decades. Two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have already said they oppose it, meaning just one more “no” vote would keep the bill from even getting the motion to proceed, therefore killing it before formal debate on the Senate floor can even begin. The senators are still waiting on the Congressional Budget Office to score the BCRA with the added Cruz amendment. Not a single one of the Senate’s 48 Democratic or independent members supports the bill.
At the end of June, the CBO said the previous version of the BCRA would leave 22 million more people uninsured. Most people would become uninsured due to the drastic cuts in Medicaid, something the changes to the BCRA, including the Cruz amendment, do not address.