How Republicans’ Bill to Replace Obamacare Could Cut Billions of Dollars From America’s Schools
As of May 4th, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a close 217-213 vote. CNN has reported that the bill to replace Obamacare faces significant obstacles in gaining approval from the Senate.
Following a recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court, schools across the country are being asked to provide more support for disabled students. However, if the Republican proposal to eliminate the Affordable Care Act is signed into law by President Trump, schools may have to face the challenge of doing more with less resources.
The bill has the potential to result in nearly $840 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next ten years. This puts at risk healthcare coverage for over 30 million children, which amounts to roughly 40 percent of Americans aged 17 and below. The White House is expecting the House to vote on the healthcare bill within this week.
If the bill becomes law, schools may experience reductions in funding for special education services, such as speech therapy, as well as cuts to salaries for school nurses and counselors. Additionally, services like eye exams, hearing tests, dental screenings, and regular check-ups for low-income children may also suffer. These potential consequences were highlighted in a recent analysis conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank based in Washington.
A survey conducted by the School Superintendents Association in January revealed that 69 percent of school chiefs use Medicaid funds to cover health professionals’ salaries, while 45 percent use these funds to expand health services offered to children at school.
According to the center’s analysis, Medicaid funded nearly $4 billion in healthcare services in schools back in 2015, which accounted for less than 1 percent of the total Medicaid expenditure. However, this funding represented a third of the $12 billion spent by the government in 2015 for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act services. This funding enables schools to partially cover the costs of special education and other healthcare services, allowing for budget allocation to other priorities in education.
Jessica Schubel, a senior policy analyst who authored the report, warned that these cuts could also harm student performance. She emphasized the long-term benefits of having Medicaid coverage as a child, which leads to better health, fewer hospitalizations, higher earnings, increased tax payments, and a higher likelihood of high school and college graduation. Schubel argued that investing in children early on produces long-term benefits for them as adults and for society as a whole.
The proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, known as the American Health Care Act, faced significant opposition from Democrats and some Republicans in March, causing it to be put on hold. However, the legislation was revived last week with an amendment that shifted it further to the right. The changes included a state waiver from key Obamacare regulations, such as the requirement for insurers to charge the same rates to people with pre-existing conditions as the general population, and the mandate to cover essential health benefits like emergency room visits, maternity care, newborn care, and mental health services.
The updated proposal, written by Republican Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, maintains the deep cuts to Medicaid that sparked opposition from moderate Republicans in the original bill. It is projected to reduce Medicaid spending by $839 billion over the next ten years, resulting in the elimination of services for 14 million people, according to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This plan contradicts President Trump’s campaign promise to replace the Affordable Care Act without cutting Medicaid.
Medicaid currently supports approximately 73 million people, or about one in five Americans, with healthcare. In 2015 alone, it cost taxpayers $532 billion. Some conservatives have argued that Medicaid is an overfunded program that surpasses its initial mandate of providing coverage to only the truly destitute and needy.
The Republican bill aimed at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act would eliminate the 2010 extension of Medicaid eligibility and change the program’s financing structure. Instead of providing funds according to eligibility, it would grant states a block grant or a fixed amount per beneficiary.
If passed, the proposed legislation would contradict the more stringent criteria established by the unanimous Supreme Court decision in March regarding the provision of services to disabled children in educational institutions. The report from the center argues that Medicaid cuts could compel school districts to significantly reduce special education services at a time when they are already being asked to do more for students with special needs.
The association of superintendents concurred, stating in their survey that schools bear a significant responsibility to offer educational opportunities to children, especially those who are impoverished or have special needs, in order to ensure their development into productive members of society who are actively engaged in civic matters. The survey further emphasizes that addressing the health and well-being needs of students within the school setting is a necessary and effective approach to eliminating educational barriers for children and safeguarding America’s economic supremacy in the 21st century.
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