AHCA could cost Rhode Island hundreds of millions

HOUSE Republicans mustered enough votes to pass their health-care bill on May 4. The 217-213 vote sends the American Health Care Act to the Senate. Pictured is House Speaker Paul Ryan. /BLOOMBERG NEWS PHOTO
HOUSE Republicans mustered enough votes to pass their health-care bill on May 4. The 217-213 vote sends the American Health Care Act to the Senate. Pictured is House Speaker Paul Ryan. /BLOOMBERG NEWS PHOTO

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island could lose nearly a half billion dollars in federal funding, resulting in thousands of people losing health insurance, should Congress pass the American Health Care Act in its current form.

The Republican-backed bill that was passed by the House of Representatives – among other things – would gut funding for Medicaid expansion, which in Rhode Island provides 72,182 people with health insurance. The federal government provides the state about $383.9 million to fund the program, an amount projected to grow to $455.5 million next fiscal year, according to Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s proposed budget.

The American Health Care Act, or AHCA, however, would curb that in-flow of federal dollars, and Raimondo is skeptical the state could make up the difference.

“There’s really no way that the state of Rhode Island can make up the shortfall monetarily because it’s massive amounts of money,” she said.

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The U.S. House on Thursday narrowly passed the AHCA, which would repeal much of the Affordable Care Act, known also as Obamacare. The now-approved legislation moves to the Republican-run U.S. Senate for further consideration.

Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, comprising all Democrats, has come out in joint opposition to the AHCA.

“If they want to improve it, that’s one thing, but this House bill will hurt Rhode Islanders,” said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse in a statement.

Beyond the Medicaid cuts, the AHCA also would slash health insurance subsidies and tax credits for the poor, which could affect nearly another 30,000 Rhode Islanders. At the same time, the AHCA removes the individual mandate, a controversial element of Obamacare that compels all Rhode Islanders to pay for health insurance, or be fined.

Without the subsidies, tax credits and individual mandates, it’s likely the Rhode Island uninsured rate – which currently stands at about 4.1 percent – would grow. In 2013, when Obamacare first rolled out, the Rhode Island uninsured rate totaled 11.6 percent.

“This is nothing short of immoral,” Raimondo said, following the House vote to pass the AHCA.

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