Top GOP Rep. warns nearly 2 million could lose private health plans under Biden spending bill

Rep. Jim Banks says it's unnecessary for Democrats to spend almost $40 billion to expand Medicare to cover more services when the program is currently headed toward insolvency

Updated: December 14, 2021 - 10:56pm

Turning the tables on Democrats who argue Republican opposition to Obamacare has denied Americans health care coverage, a key GOP lawmaker is warning that President Biden's Build Back Better Act would lead to roughly 2 million people losing their employer-based medical insurance.

"Democrats have always sought to make as many people dependent on the federal government for health care as possible, while eliminating every other option that could drive down prices in the competitive marketplace," Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks wrote in a memo released Tuesday.

"By wrestling control away from doctors and patients, the Democrats' dystopic healthcare vision puts the onus on corporate and government bureaucrats who care more about the bottom line than they do about the health of our constituents," said the Indiana congressman.

According to the Republican Study Committee, Biden's multitrillion dollar, 2,500-page budget reconciliation bill would "massively expand Obamacare subsidies, giving wealthy Americans access to them, while undermining the ability for Americans to get coverage at their job."

A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the reconciliation bill found that its passage would result in 1.6 million people losing their current employer-based coverage.

Banks said this would force them to obtain "worse care that costs more" compared to their existing private plans.

"Democrats' expanded Obamacare payments would result in nearly 2 million people losing the health insurance they receive from their job, forcing them on to get worse care that costs more," he wrote.

Under Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, Democrats "already sent Obamacare subsidies intended for low-income Americans to individuals making as much as $500,000 for the next two years," and this bill would "make that handout permanent," Banks wrote in the memo to the Republican Study Committee.

The bill, which Democrats are seeking to pass with budget reconciliation to avoid the filibuster, would force states to expand Medicaid if they have not done so on their own yet.

Banks said the Medicaid provisions of the legislation would "punish states that haven't expanded Medicaid by withholding funding from hospitals that serve their poorest citizens."

He called the move "potentially" unconstitutional.

"The bill would punish states that have sought better options than Medicaid for their poorest residents and shift coverage for many Americans from private insurance plans to lower-quality Medicaid coverage," he wrote.

The budget bill also would expand Medicare to cover dental and vision for the first time. Banks pointed out in the memorandum that the Medicare trustees found that the program in its current form is headed toward insolvency by 2026.

"The bill would unnecessarily spend nearly $40 billion to expand traditional Medicare to cover hearing benefits even though 93% of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans already cover them," Banks wrote. "Even then, many in traditional Medicare still have access to hearing coverage through private coverage or through Medicaid.

"The Medicare expansion comes at a time when the underlying Medicare program is approaching a fiscal crisis. Medicare's trust fund is facing insolvency in 2026."

The legislation passed in the Democratic-led House and is being considered in the 50-50 Senate.

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