Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah said poor Americans should buy health insurance instead of iPhones on March 7 (video below).
Chaffetz was defending the new Republican replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act in response to a statement by Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation:
With Medicaid reductions and smaller tax credits, this bill would clearly result in fewer people insured than under the ACA. The House GOP proposal seeks to reduce what the federal government spends on health care, and that inevitably means more people uninsured.
Chaffetz asserted that citizens will have more "access" to health care under the Republican plan.
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CNN host Alisyn Camerota reminded Chaffetz that "access" is not the same thing as coverage, particularly for low-income residents. Chaffetz then suggested that low-income Americans should not buy iPhones instead of health care coverage:
Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice. And so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love, and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They've got to make those decisions themselves.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average premium for an individual health care plan is $235.27 per month; that number does not include all of the out-of-pocket expenses people also pay.
Buying an iPhone 7 through a wireless carrier on installments can range from $20 to $40 per month, noted WhistleOut.
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The Republican replacement plan would allow insurance companies to hit Americans with a 30 percent surcharge if people have gaps in their coverage, notes The Washington Post.
The replacement plan also defunds Planned Parenthood of federal dollars, which come from Medicaid reimbursements and government grants.
The GOP plan guts federal insurance subsidies for individual plans, and replaces them with tax credits of $2,000 per year for people under 30 up to $4,000 per year for people older than 60. The tax credits only help people after they have already paid for their health insurance.
The GOP plan would also freeze Medicaid payments to states that expanded their Medicaid coverage under the ACA in 2020. Those states would only get their 90 percent reimbursement for the people who signed up by 2020.
The 19 states that did not expand Medicaid for their low-income residents would be given $10 billion over a period of five years. The states could use the federal money to treat poor people and subsidize hospitals, but the plan gives the states flexibility to make different choices.
The new GOP plan keeps two features from the ACA: Young people can stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26, and insurance companies cannot deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
The only way Republicans can pass their repeal of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, in the Senate to avoid a filibuster is under a budget move called "reconciliation," but that only works if the Congressional Budget Office rules that the repeal would not increase the deficit after its first 10 years.
Republicans will not be able to put a replacement plan in place without the support of Senate Democrats to get past the 60-vote threshold of a filibuster.