Guest column: Tax bill threatens health care in Idaho

I’ve seen firsthand what happens to families that don’t have insurance, Idahoans shouldn’t have to bankrupt themselves by trying to pay for medical care, writes Eric Kraska.

As a Republican and a physician, I’ve always believed in the importance of fiscal responsibility, but our congressmen are putting politics before common sense. If you’re a fiscal conservative, this tax bill should look just as problematic to you as it does to me. This bill provides big tax breaks to the rich at the expense of working families. Momentous changes like these need to be carefully planned, and should be carried out fairly to benefit Americans across the board. Instead we had a hand-written bill hastily jammed through the Senate that hurts working families by damaging our health care system economic security. There’s no other way of looking at it, this is simply bad policy.

I agree that we need to jumpstart our economy, but this bill won’t create jobs or stimulate economic growth. It will add over $1 trillion to the national debt, and studies have shown it won’t spur enough growth in the economy to offset even a quarter of the cost of implementation. Instead we get a bill where the vast majority of cuts go to the ultra-wealthy, while the rest of us are left with little more than an enormous budget deficit. This isn’t a fair trade.

This tax bill makes many Idahoans worse off than before. I’ll be the first to point out flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but repealing the individual mandate, especially without a replacement mechanism, is an incredibly reckless move.

Approximately 74,000 Idahoans will lose their health insurance and premiums will go up for many more. It’s not right to leave families out in the cold. I’ve seen firsthand what happens to families that don’t have insurance. Idahoans shouldn’t have to bankrupt themselves by trying to pay for medical care. The independent Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums will increase an additional 10 percent in cost for next year alone —and that’s on top of the previous projections for increases. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that working families in Idaho will end up losing money on this bill, when their tax cut is worth far less than their premium increase.

What are we doing this for if it doesn’t help Idahoans? Why do we want this tax bill if it won’t boost economic growth? Realistically, I and many other Idahoans will end up with less cash in our pockets in exchange for nothing at all. Less in our pockets, a ballooning deficit, thousands of Idahoans losing health insurance, skyrocketing health premiums, and big bonuses for rich CEOs on Wall Street.

If we’re going to tackle tax reform, it should be about the tax payers, not about political donors and big corporations. This isn’t reforming the tax system for us, this isn’t for the working class, and this isn’t for Idaho. Idaho’s members of Congress should put their constituents first, oppose this bill and come together to find sensible and proven methods to spur economic growth, reduce our deficit and improve our country’s health insurance system.

Eric Kraska is a Board Certified Emergency Physician, providing care to every person who seeks his care at the State’s largest trauma hospital, Boise, ID.