WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (2nd R) join fellow Democrats from both the House and Senate for a news conference following a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2017. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday to discuss congressional Republicans’ plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. Sanders hammered the GOP plan, calling it “an absolute disaster” for working-class Americans.
“It is an absolute disaster,” Sanders said of the health care plan, titled the American Health Care Act. “It is a disgrace. And by the way, this really has nothing to do with health care. What this has everything to do with is a massive shift of wealth from working people and middle-income people to the richest people in this country. It is a $275 billion tax break for the top 2 percent. Millionaires will get about $50,000 a year in tax breaks, while at the same time some 5 to 10 million people are going to lose their health insurance. Premiums are going to soar.”
After the interview, Sanders further assaulted the Republican plan on Twitter, again calling it a “disgrace” and argued the plan is nothing more than a tax break for wealthy Americans.
“The Republican ‘health care’ plan is a disgrace,” wrote Sanders. “It has nothing to do with health care. It’s a $275 billion tax break for the top 2%.”
Under the AHCA, Obamacare-related taxes would end, as would the ACA’s individual and employer mandates. Obamacare subsidies would be replaced with refundable tax credits for low- and middle-income Americans, ranging from $2,000 to $4,000, and Medicaid would be capped and transformed into a per-capita block grant system, freeing up states to implement the programs of their own choosing.
Additionally, the AHCA would keep the ACA’s pre-existing conditions clause in place, continue to fund the Medicaid expansion that has already occurred (while stopping future expansion in 2020) and allow children to stay on a parent’s health insurance plan until age 26.
Sanders’ dire warnings about the AHCA and defense of the ACA seem to contradict with what many health care experts believe about Obamacare: It's in the midst of a “death spiral,” as an increasing number of insurers continue to depart from the government-run health care exchanges, leaving millions of Americans with fewer health care options than they’ve had in decades.
Health care premiums and deductibles have risen substantially since Obamacare was enacted. The midlevel benchmark plan rose by an average of 25 percent from 2016 to 2017. Further, the vast majority of the people who have gained health insurance since Obamacare passed have been added to Medicaid; they didn’t purchase health insurance. Medicaid rolls have skyrocketed by more than 28 percent since 2013.
Sanders’ rejection of the AHCA has been joined in recent weeks — albeit for entirely different reasons — by leading conservative congressional Republicans.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) called the bill “a stinking pile of garbage” and said he believes the “bill will fail.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Thursday on Twitter the “health-care bill can’t pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast.”
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Justin Haskins is the director of the Socialism Research Center at the Heartland Institute and the co-author of the New York Times best-seller "Dark Future: Uncovering the Great Reset’s Terrifying Next Phase."