The GOP health care act will hurt a lot of Utahns. That's fine with Orrin Hatch

Sunday , July 16, 2017 - 4:30 AM1 comment

STANDARD-EXAMINER EDITORIAL BOARD

Sen. Orrin Hatch intends to vote for the Republican health care plan revealed Thursday.

Sen. Mike Lee says he’s considering it.

  • RELATED: “Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch backs GOP heath care plan, Sen. Mike Lee still mulling it”

But before they do, Hatch and Lee need to address the Utahns they’re depriving of health insurance coverage. They need to explain why some lives matter, but others don’t.

In 2015, according to the Utah Department of Health, the estimated rate of uninsured Utahns reached its lowest level in more than a decade — 8.8 percent.

From a high of 377,700 people without health insurance in 2011, the state reported, the total plunged to 265,100 in 2015.

And despite Utah’s stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid, the number of people without insurance at 0 to 138 percent of the poverty level declined dramatically, falling from 32 percent in 2011 to 22 percent in 2015.

Why? In part because of a strong economy and low unemployment, Dr. Joseph Miner, director of the Utah Health Department, said in a news release.

Changes in health insurance also helped, Miner said. In other words, the Affordable Care Act.

None of that matters to Hatch and Lee. Like every other Republican elected to Congress since 2008, they vowed to repeal and replace the ACA.

“We’ve all made promises to our constituents along those lines. This legislation, while far from perfect, would fulfill the vast majority of those promises,” Hatch said Thursday on the Senate floor, defending the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Here’s what those promises would do — they would strip Utahns of their health coverage. Hundreds of thousands of Utahns.

In a letter to Hatch and Lee, Matthew M. Slonaker, executive director of the Utah Health Policy Project, said an estimated 166,000 Utah adults would lose health care coverage by 2022 under the BCRA. So would 79,000 children. And another 83,000 Utahns would lose employer-based coverage.

“As a result, the state’s uninsured rate would double to 20 percent in a few years,” Slonaker wrote.

Slonaker, however, sent his letter July 12 — the day before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a revised plan.

Utah’s numbers are even worse than Slonaker thought.

The Urban Institute is a think tank in Washington, D.C. Under the ACA, it projects 341,000 uninsured Utahns in 2022. If the BCRA becomes law, that number grows to 581,000 — an increase of 70.5 percent.

If Lee thought an amendment by his ally Ted Cruz would help, he was wrong. Cruz proposed allowing insurers to sell cheap, essentially worthless coverage as long as they offered at least one ACA-approved plan.

In a joint statement Friday, two of the insurance industry’s biggest players — America's Health Care Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association — said Cruz’s plan would "undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions," force higher insurance premiums, and lead to more people without coverage.

"It is simply unworkable in any form," they said in a letter to McConnell.

Yet this is the bill Hatch supports and Lee is seriously considering.

Before they vote yes, they need to return to Utah. They need to visit as many Utahns as they can who’ll lose their health coverage because of this bill.

And then they need to explain to those Utahns why their lives don’t matter.

How to reach Sen. Orrin Hatch:

Washington office: 202-224-5251

Ogden office: 801-625-5672

How to reach Sen. Mike Lee:

Washington office: 202-224-5444

Ogden office: 801-392-9633

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