An Open Letter to My Congressman, Scott Tipton

By Jeremy Leone

Dear Congressman Tipton, 

I write to you with grave concerns regarding the healthcare bill you recently voted in favor of, the American Health Care Act of 2017. I must admit, healthcare is not a topic that has always been on the forefront of my mind - I have been blessed enough to spend most of my 28 years on Earth in good health- the most major operation I’ve ever had was having tubes placed in my ears when I was 6 or 7. I’ve never missed extended time from school or work due to an illness or accident, and I have maintained consistent employer-based health coverage since I transitioned off my parents’ coverage years ago.

As a healthy, young individual with none of the many, many conditions that could be considered pre-existing conditions, my current understanding of the long-term effects of the AHCA lead me to believe that I would be one of those who could benefit most from it. As I understand it, in our current system older individuals can only be charged up to 3 times that of a younger individual — the AHCA would allow insurance companies to charge up to 5 times that of a younger individual- which would of course lead to lower premiums for young, healthy people such as myself, and greatly drive up rates for the oldest, most vulnerable people in the market. I would also stand to benefit from the MacArthur Amendment’s provision that states could choose to lower the essential health benefit requirements- As a young, healthy individual I am in the best position possible to opt for the most basic of health care plans, which would undoubtedly lead to expanded choices and lower premiums for people like me.

Unfortunately, I do not benefit from the repeal of the 3.8% tax applied to capital gains, dividends, and interest income for families with 250,000 or more in income, a repeal that was projected by the nonpartisan CBO to cost over 150 billion dollars in tax revenues over 10 years. According to the Tax Policy Center, repealing this tax would provide an average tax cut of 0 dollars for people with household incomes in the 90th percentile — those households making 208,500 or less in annual income. On the other hand, repealing this tax would provide households in the top 0.1 percent- those making more than 3.75 million dollars annually- an average tax cut of $165,090.

I found it very concerning that the press release on your website that explained the benefits of the AHCA failed to mention the repeal of this tax as one of the core tenants of the AHCA- once I found that you had neglected to mention it, I felt compelled to dig a little deeper, to try to get a better understanding of how the individual that represents me in Congress came to support a bill that I find myself fiercely opposing, despite there being a very real chance that I could benefit from it.

Was it the MacArthur Amendment that convinced you to vote yes on this bill? On Friday, March 24th — as the original incarnation of the AHCA failed to become popular enough to make it to a vote on the floor of the House– you told the Grand Junction Sentinel that you would have voted against the bill at that point. The bill was revived on April 24th, when the MacArthur amendment was added to the AHCA- as you know, this amendment allows states to apply for a waiver to opt-out of requirements that insurers charge the same rates to people regardless of age or health status, and separately allows them to apply for a waiver to remove the requirement that all health plans include coverage for “essential health benefits”.

As far as I can tell, you never publicly voiced any kind of concern with the MacArthur amendment, but perhaps I will give you the benefit of the doubt — was it the last minute amendment added by Fred Upton that sold you on this bill? Was it the additional 8 billion dollars provided to help support the “high-risk” pools that states would be required to setup if they chose to roll back the protections given to those with pre-existing conditions?

As it says in the press release on your website entitled “HOW THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT PROTECTS PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS”, you “have been adamant that the replacement plan needs to ensure people with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health insurance.”. You seem to have been convinced that the funding for the “high-risk” pools provided in the AHCA would be enough to guarantee that those with pre-existing conditions would still have affordable health insurance, however, at the time that you voted for this bill, the CBO still had not had a chance to provide an analysis of the effects of the MacArthur amendment.

If you have developed you own independent analysis that leads you to believe that “high-risk” pools established as a result of the MacArthur amendment will still provide affordable coverage, and believe that this analysis is reliable enough that it allows you to vote responsibly on a bill without a CBO score, I’m sure some of your more skeptical constituents would love to read it.

Perhaps it wasn’t either of the amendments that convinced you to change your mind, perhaps there were other factors that caused you to vote for this bill? Was it instead the support you received from Donald Trump’s PAC, America First Policies, that convinced you to support a bill that was projected to cause as many as 24 million people to lose health insurance?

Congressman Tipton, I believe that it will be a daunting task for you to explain why supporting this bill supports the needs of your constituents. I admit, I’m far from an expert on healthcare policies, and I do understand that the Affordable Care Act has quite a few problems that need to be addressed. However, I find it hard to believe that a 150 billion dollar tax cut that will overwhelmingly benefit the top .1% of earners is a crucial element in providing affordable healthcare to Western Coloradans, and the fact that I cannot find one mention of you opposing this aspect of the AHCA leaves me no choice but to believe that you have no objections to providing a tax cut for millionaires that would directly help lead to over 20 million people losing health coverage.

Congressman Tipton, I welcome you to convince me that the AHCA was worth supporting, but despite the fact that it would likely lead to lower premiums for myself, I am currently convinced that were this bill to pass through the Senate unchanged, it would undoubtedly lead to higher premium costs for many older enrollees in our district, and this is an outcome that I find to be simply unacceptable.


Jeremy Leone lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. He hasn't been politically active for most of his life but has always been interested in politics, in particular in the shortcomings our current system has with regards to valuing human life in the humanistic tradition.