ACPP news releases

GOP tax plan would slash taxes for wealthy people while laying groundwork for cuts to education, Medicaid

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, in response to the release of U.S. House Republicans’ tax proposal:

The House Republican tax plan is an expensive new giveaway to wealthy households and big corporations at the expense of working families. It would offer little or nothing to most Alabamians, and it actually would increase taxes for many low- and middle-income folks.

“This plan would add at least $1.5 trillion to the national deficit – and to pay for it, many in Congress will try next year to cut everything from education and Medicaid to food assistance for struggling families. Those cuts would make it even tougher for hard-working Alabamians to make ends meet.

“Taking from those who have the least to give to those who have the most is no way to build a better economy, a better state or a better world. Congress should reject this tax bill and focus instead on closing corporate tax loopholes and investing in education, health care, transportation and other vital services that help struggling families get ahead across Alabama and across the country.”

Executive order could mean soaring health insurance costs for Alabamians with pre-existing conditions

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project policy director Jim Carnes issued the following statement Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in response to the White House’s release of a new executive order on health care:

“This executive order risks turning back the clock to the bad old days when many people were priced out of health insurance just because they got sick. Allowing more insurers to sell plans that don’t cover essential health benefits would weaken consumer protections under the guise of promoting consumer choice.

“These changes could open the door to a wave of ‘cheaper’ plans that cost less because they don’t provide as much coverage. By luring in many healthier people, these plans could undermine protections for folks with pre-existing conditions like cancer and diabetes by sending costs soaring for more comprehensive coverage.

“Recent cuts to the Marketplace enrollment period, enrollment assistance and outreach activities already have created unnecessary barriers for consumers and threaten to reverse gains in health coverage and care. Today’s announcement doesn’t immediately change anything, but it sows even more confusion in the health insurance market just as tens of thousands of Alabamians are getting ready to enroll for 2018 coverage. It’s more important than ever for advocates and leaders across our state to ensure that Alabamians have the information they need to find affordable coverage that’s there for them when they need it most.”

New CFPB rule on payday, title loans is a good first step that should prompt further action to protect Alabama consumers

Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister issued the following statement Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced a new federal rule on payday and auto title loans:

“High-cost payday and title loans have sent far too many Alabamians spiraling into a long-term cycle of debt. The CFPB’s new rule is a welcome move to protect struggling families from getting stuck in deep debt. The requirement for lenders to verify borrowers’ ability to repay before lending to them is an important, common-sense step to protect consumers.

“The CFPB rule is good news, but it’s far from a cure-all. The rule will not reduce the extremely high annual interest rates that Alabama allows on short-term loans: up to 456 percent a year for payday loans, and up to 300 percent a year for title loans. The new safeguards also don’t apply to many high-cost installment loans.

“Alabama needs to build on these new federal protections by capping interest rates at a reasonable level and ensuring borrowers have a reasonable amount of time to repay what they owe. These changes would be good for consumers and good for Alabama’s economy.”

More than half of GOP plan's tax cuts in Alabama would go to top 1 percent

Alabamians with incomes of more than $1 million would get an average tax cut of nearly $116,000 a year under the tax framework unveiled by congressional Republicans and the White House, according to a study released Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C. One in seven Alabamians would pay higher taxes under the plan, which also likely would lead to cuts to Medicaid and other vital services.

Key state-level findings from the ITEP report include:

  • The top 1 percent of Alabama earners – those who make $501,800 or more – would receive 56.2 percent of the tax cuts going to the state.
  • Nearly half (49.2 percent) of the overall tax cuts that Alabama residents would get under the plan would flow to people with incomes of more than $1 million a year. They would receive an average annual tax cut of $115,900.
  • Just 12.5 percent of the state’s total tax cuts would go to the three in five Alabamians with incomes of less than $57,900 a year. They would see an average tax cut of $190 a year.
  • One in seven Alabamians (14.5 percent) would pay higher taxes under the plan.

U.S. Senate Republicans are considering a proposal to allow the tax cuts to add as much as $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit. That move would lay the groundwork for harmful cuts to services that help Alabamians get ahead, Arise Citizens’ Policy Project executive director Kimble Forrister said.

“These tax cuts would be a windfall for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else,” Forrister said. “This plan likely would force massive cuts to future federal funding for Medicaid, education, housing, transportation and other vital services that help everyday families make ends meet. Congress should reject these reckless tax cuts for the rich and focus on investing in education, health care and other services that help all Alabamians and all Americans get ahead.”

Click here for a PDF version of this news release.

Graham-Cassidy health plan would cost Alabama $27 billion through 2036

Alabama would lose $27 billion in federal health care funding through 2036 if the Graham-Cassidy health care plan becomes law, according to a new study by Avalere Health, an independent analysis firm. The proposal also would open the door to erosion or elimination of pre-existing condition protections for more than 2 million Alabamians with cancer, diabetes or other medical conditions.

The plan temporarily would divert federal funding from states that expanded Medicaid to cover low-income adults to states like Alabama that have not, but the gains would disappear in 2027. Medicaid expansion in Alabama would generate at least as much new federal money through 2026 as Graham-Cassidy – and likely more, according to research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Every state would be a loser under Graham-Cassidy, and Alabama is no exception,” Arise Citizens’ Policy Project policy director Jim Carnes said Thursday. “Over time, this bill would wreck our state’s General Fund budget and force enormous Medicaid cuts that would hurt children, seniors, and people with disabilities across Alabama. We urge Congress to reject this harmful plan and work together in a bipartisan way to strengthen our country’s health care system.”

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., would:

The risks to Medicaid and rural health care in Alabama

The Graham-Cassidy plan would end both Medicaid expansion for low-income adults and subsidies for individual plans under the Affordable Care Act. (Alabama has not expanded Medicaid, but more than 140,000 Alabamians receive subsidies for individual ACA coverage.) In their place, the Graham-Cassidy plan would give states a block grant that would not increase in response to growing costs or enrollment. The plan also would impose a per capita (or per-person) cap on federal Medicaid funding.

“This bill plays bait-and-switch with Alabama’s federal health care funding,” Carnes said. “The temporary gain wouldn’t be worth wreaking long-term havoc on our state’s health care system.”

At the same time, the Medicaid cap would force Alabama and all other states to pick up an increasingly larger share of health care funding. The result would be either higher state taxes or – perhaps more likely – deep cuts to Medicaid, which covers more than one in five Alabamians, almost all of whom are children, seniors, pregnant women, or people with disabilities.

Such cuts would be devastating for Medicaid patients, and they also would be bad news for rural communities across Alabama, where Medicaid plays a huge role in helping many hospitals and clinics stay open. Closure of those facilities would harm not just Medicaid patients but people with private insurance coverage as well.

The risks to Alabamians with pre-existing conditions

The Graham-Cassidy plan’s threats to Alabamians with private insurance would not end there. The bill also could put essential consumer protections at risk for more than 2 million Alabamians who have pre-existing health conditions like asthma, cancer, diabetes or heart disease.

Under the ACA, insurers are not allowed to charge higher premiums based on an applicant’s health history. The ACA also requires insurance plans to cover 10 “essential health benefits,” including maternity care, prescription drugs and mental health care, and forbids insurers to impose annual or lifetime coverage limits for those services.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal would allow states to seek waivers of those protections for any insurance plan subsidized by block grant funding. States seeking waivers would have to explain how they “intend” to keep insurance affordable for people with pre-existing conditions, but the bill does not set a clear definition of affordability.

If the ACA’s protection against higher premiums based on health status disappeared, many Alabamians with pre-existing conditions could see premiums soar by tens of thousands of dollars a year, effectively pricing them out of the insurance market. And if maternity care, mental health care or other services were no longer deemed to be “essential health benefits,” insurers once again could impose annual or lifetime coverage limits on them – or refuse to cover them at all.

“We can’t afford to return to the bad old days when people were punished with soaring premiums just because they got sick,” Carnes said. “Congress needs to stop trying to undermine consumer protections and start working together to ensure that all Americans can get quality, affordable health care when they need it.”

Click here for a PDF version of this news release.

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