By Miriam Raftery
July 16, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Senate has introduced a revamped bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act with a new provision aimed at getting conservative votes. The newest version would allow insurance companies to sell skimpy “bare bones” insurance plans provided they offer at least one that meets the requirements of Obamacare. So, insurers could exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions, maternity care, drug addiction, mental health and more, under the mantra of offering consumers a “choice.” The CEOs of major insurance companies sent a joint letter to Senate leaders Friday calling the plan “unworkable in any form” and warning it will lead to “widespread termination of coverage.”
The problem is that younger, healthier consumers would be most apt to opt for the bare-bones coverage, leaving insurance companies with more comprehensive plans forced to pay out more for sicker, older clients. There is also a risk to the health of young or other consumers who sign up for the cheapest policies, not realizing what’s not covered. An unplanned pregnancy, for instance, could leave a young couple facing tens of thousands of dollars for a normal delivery and potentially much more if there are complications during birth. A plan that excludes costly cancer treatments could be deadly for a young person who winds up with a cancer early in life that needs aggressive treatment. A person may buy a cheap policy thinking they don’t need addiction treatment – but if they need surgery later and get hooked on prescription pain killers, they’ll be on their own.
State Governors in both parties have also come out against the bill during the National Governors Association meeting, the New York Times reports. Their concerns include deep cuts to Medicaid and funding for opioid addiction, as well as eliminating protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
The American Association of Retired Persons, American Medical Association and advocates for patients and the disabled have previously registered opposition to the measure and the latest changes only intensify the concerns raised by those organizations.
At least two Republican Senators have said they will not vote for the bill. Republicans cannot lose a single additional Republican vote, since Democrats are united in their opposition.
Action on the bill is being delayed a week due to Senator John McCain undergoing surgery for a blood clot behind his eye, Associated Press reports.
Ironically, the Senate bill allows members of Congress to keep their Obamacare policies, while weakening healthcare protections for everyone else.