A Post-Election Update: Health Insurance in the U.S.

triage-cancer-blog-election-2016There is no doubt about it, the results of the 2016 presidential election will bring significant changes to our country.  Some of the most significant changes will likely be to our health care system and the way that many of us access health insurance coverage.

We have heard from many of you with your questions about these potential changes and your concerns that you will lose access to your health insurance coverage.  So, we wanted to reach out to you today to share with you the information that we have at this point, and assure you that we will continue to keep you informed and advocate for access to quality, affordable health insurance coverage for the cancer community and others.

The Republican Party is now in control of the Presidency, U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate, which means that there are less impediments to passing Republican legislation out of Congress and having it signed by the President. This could improve the productivity of Congress in passing legislation on behalf of the people of the United States, but we also know that both political parties have different ideas about our health care system and access to health insurance coverage. While we would definitely love to have a crystal ball about the potential changes to our health care system that might be coming, at this early stage, we do not know exactly what will happen when President-elect Trump takes office on January 20, 2017.

Here is what we do know:

  • The Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and President-elect Trump have confirmed that the first item on their agenda, in January, is repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as the ACA or Obamacare).
  • Those same individuals have different ideas about what to replace the ACA with and other changes that they want to make to our health care system. You can read more about some of their ideas here:

Now, some of Congressman Ryan’s ideas are actually already law, included in the ACA. One of President-elect Trump’s ideas, making health insurance premiums tax-deductible for individuals, could be helpful for the cancer community. So, we remain optimistic that our elected officials will continue to propose, legislate, and implement laws that will have a positive impact on all of us.

  • Our health care system isn’t only controlled by our elected officials in Washington, D.C. Our state governors and legislators also have an impact, and we may see some changes to our health care options and system in each state, as a result of the election.
  • The details of our health care system are often influenced and implemented by leaders of our federal and state agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When a new President is elected, those agency leaders often change, too. Click here to learn more about potential members of President-elect Trump’s cabinet.
  • If the ACA is repealed it means that health insurance companies can go back to: denying people with pre-existing conditions or charging them more for health insurance; canceling our policies when we try to use our coverage; and imposing annual and lifetime limits on policies.
  • If the ACA is repealed it means that we will no longer have access to free preventive care, and seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare will pay more for their prescription drugs.
  • If the ACA is repealed, it means that the Medicaid expansion would end, the Marketplaces would be closed, young adults under age 26 would not be able to access their parents’ health insurance coverage, and an estimated 20-25 million people would lose their health insurance coverage.

While we at Triage Cancer are the first to acknowledge that there are still many ways to improve our health care system, we are disheartened to think that we may be sent back to the days where a cancer diagnosis or having another serious medical condition may force you into bankruptcy, homelessness, or even not being able to get medical care. It is sometimes hard to remember how far we have come, but we only want to look forward, at how we can continue to improve the lives of those touched by cancer, and the rest of our country.

And you can help us do that.

  • Even though the election is over, as citizens, we still have a say in how our government is run. It is time to organize, mobilize, and advocate for the cancer community. Call or email your elected officials and tell them what the ACA means to you. Tell your story! To find your elected officials or learn more about becoming an advocate, visit our Advocacy resources page.
  • Communicate with your elected officials about your health insurance concerns. You can find the Facebook and Twitter handles for the current members of Congress here.
  • Share your story with Families USA, a health care advocacy organization. Families USA has pledged to work furiously to help our elected officials understand the dire consequences of repealing the ACA and how certain changes to our health care system can impact us all. But they need the stories of real people who will be impacted by the ACA’s repeal. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can share your story at http://familiesusa.org/share-your-story.

We also want to remind you that change is Washington is rarely swift and that we may not see changes for most of 2017.  That means that we have to continue to operate with the system we have for now and ensure that people have health insurance coverage for 2017.  If you do not have health insurance coverage, you can apply for Medicaid at any time or purchase a policy through the State Health Insurance Marketplaces until January 31, 2017. If you want your policy to begin on January 1, 2017, you need to have picked a plan by December 15, 2016.  For more information about how to choose a health insurance policy (including making choices between employer-sponsored options), watch our recorded webinar. If you aren’t sure what your health insurance options are, our recently released toolkit, Finances 101, may be useful.

President-elect Trump pledged “to every citizen of our land that [he] will be President for all Americans.” Help us to make sure that he understands what is important to the cancer community and how we can continue to improve our health care system without taking a step backwards.

Stay tuned to our Blog and sign up for our newsletter, as we promise to continue to provide updates as more information becomes available in the coming months.