After weeks of secret negotiations, the Senate Republicans released their so-called "healthcare" bill on Thursday. Despite the fact that this bill could have a bigger impact on our nation's economy -- and the bottom line of every business in this country -- than any other law or regulation under discussion by Congress, America's business leaders have been remarkably quiet.
The CEOs know who will be hit: their workers, their customers and their shareholders. Cuts to Medicaid and shrinking insurance coverage will touch tens of millions of people. Babies in intensive care. Forty-year-olds starting another round of chemo. Grandpas in nursing homes. Teenagers struggling with addiction. Kids with asthma. No family will escape the reach of the Republican repeal of our healthcare laws. And yet America's CEOs look the other way.
CEOs don't need to care about a single human being in order have an intense interest in the impact of the Republican bill. A cold look at the bottom line should be enough to make the business case for preserving the gains achieved by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since the ACA became law, the cost of health care has grown at an historically low rate. Spending growth has slowed to a crawl for individuals enrolled in private insurance and has actually dropped for Medicare enrollees. When employers pay less to provide healthcare coverage for their employees, they are able to invest in job creation or higher wages. Lower costs, more growth.
Healthier workers are more productive, have higher rates of employment and earn higher wages -- meaning more consumer spending. The ACA has also greatly strengthened consumer financial security. Personal bankruptcy filings have plummeted since the implementation of the ACA, and credit scores have improved in states that have expanded Medicaid. Stronger customers, stronger sales.
But these economic benefits are threatened by the Republican healthcare bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance if the Senate bill became law. In 2018, four million Americans would lose employer-based coverage. Millions more would see higher out-of-pocket costs, and once insurance companies were permitted to reinstate annual and lifetime limits in employer plans, America would return to the days when insurance could run out just when it was needed the most.
Even if CEOs can't muster any interest in the details of how their employees and customers will manage to pay for chemotherapy or the birth of a new baby if the Senate bill moves forward, they have an obligation to their shareholders to speak up. Healthcare accounts for nearly one-sixth of the U.S. economy. The Senate bill would lead to to the loss of nearly a million job losses and a drop in business output. State governments would lose hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicaid funding and be forced to cut back on their own health spending -- weakening the economy in the near term and permanently removing key stabilizers that help cushion the impact of economic downturns.
America's CEOs are not a shy group. They usually don't hesitate to speak up when they see their profits on the line. I hear from them frequently about regulations they don't like or legislation they insist they need. Every day of the week, the Senate halls are filled with corporate lobbyists. In short, corporate America has plenty of influence -- when it decides to speak out.
There's no way around it. The silence of this country's business leaders is a choice. It amounts to a quiet endorsement of Republican proposals to slash funding for Medicaid -- a program that provides health coverage to one in five Americans, including vulnerable children, seniors and people with disabilities -- and eliminate health insurance coverage for millions of people in order to offset the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy.
These choices would permanently weaken our economy, reversing the economic gains secured by the Affordable Care Act and threatening American competitiveness. They are also shameful, advancing the interests of a handful of rich people over the health and well-being of millions of our fellow Americans. Now is the time for some corporate leadership. Which of America's CEOs are up to the task at hand?