Senate health care plan threatens the nation’s health

Senate Republicans have proposed a health care bill that would severely cut Medicaid and limit the access and affordability of private health insurance—in spite of clear evidence that health insurance expansions in the past have improved access to care, improved health, and reduced mortality, according to Atul Gawande of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

In a June 26, 2017 New Yorker article, Gawande, professor in Harvard Chan School’s Department of Health Policy and Management and director of Ariadne Labs, said that health insurance enables people to get regular, ongoing health care—“incremental care”—which helps them prevent urgent conditions, control chronic illnesses more effectively, and live longer. Gawande cited a June 21, 2017 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, which he co-wrote with Harvard Chan health economists Katherine Baicker and Benjamin Sommers, that analyzed dozens of studies about the health effects of insurance coverage. They found that coverage expansions—not just those implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Republicans want to repeal and replace, but also past Medicaid expansions and Massachusetts’ health care reform of 2006—“have consistently and significantly increased the number of people who have a regular source of care and who can afford the care they need,” Gawande wrote.

Both the Senate bill and a similar bill that House Republicans passed in May “are, in many ways, Medicaid-repeal bills masquerading as Obamacare-repeal bills,” wrote Gawande. He added that, under the Senate bill, people who buy private health insurance on the ACA health care exchanges would pay far more money for far less coverage. For patients, Gawande wrote, the bill would mean “more medical debts, more untreated sickness, and more deaths.”

Read Gawande’s New Yorker article: How the Senate’s Health-Care Bill Threatens the Nation’s Health

Watch Gawande on “PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton”: The Unaffordable Healthcare Act

Learn more

Quick take: The Senate GOP’s proposed health care plan (Harvard Chan School feature)

Analysis indicates that insurance expansion improves access to care, health, and survival (Harvard Chan School release)

Health care could worsen under Republican health care bill (Harvard Chan School news)