Business News

Depends what you mean by ‘coverage’

by Mike Stagg

House Republicans taking another shot at ACA repeal

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The New York Times reports today that President Trump and House Republican leaders are preparing to take another stab at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. The vote on the original bill on March 24 was postponed after the bill fractured the House Republican Caucus.

Conservatives in the Freedom Caucus didn’t like the bill because it was not “market oriented” enough. Republican moderates rebelled against it after the non-partisan Congressional Budge Office reported that the bill would have deprived 24 million Americans of health coverage, including 308,700 non-elderly people in Louisiana.

None of the five members of Louisiana’s Republican caucus openly opposed the bill, including Third District Congressman Clay Higgins. According to the CBO numbers, 50,100 residents in Higgins’ district would have lost coverage in the original bill, including 16,300 who have insurance through their jobs.

Jan Moller of the Louisiana Budget Project wrote in LBP’s Daily Dime e-letter this morning that “the latest idea is to give states flexibility to offer pared-down coverage and effectively bar people with pre-existing conditions from buying coverage.”

The plan being discussed would eliminate two key provisions of the ACA, according to the New York Times:

The terms, described by Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the head of the Freedom Caucus, are something like this: States would have the option to jettison two major parts of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance regulations. They could decide to opt out of provisions that require insurers to cover a standard, minimum package of benefits, known as the essential health benefits. And they could decide to do away with a rule that requires insurance companies to charge the same price to everyone who is the same age, a provision called community rating.

Reporter Margot Sanger-Katz writes that the plan now being negotiated to win approval of Freedom Caucus members would be a disaster for cancer patients:

The ability to opt out of the benefit requirements could substantially reduce the value of insurance on the market. A patient with cancer might, for example, still be allowed to buy a plan, but it wouldn’t do her much good if that plan was not required to cover chemotherapy drugs.

Sanger-Katz explains the appeal of the changes to Freedom Caucus members:

There is a reason that many conservatives want to do away with these provisions. Because they help people with substantial health care needs buy relatively affordable coverage, they drive up the price of insurance for people who are healthy. An insurance market that did not include cancer care — or even any cancer patients — would be one where premiums for the remaining customers were much lower. The result might be a market that is much more affordable for people with a clean bill of health. But it would become largely inaccessible to anyone who really needs help paying for medical care.

Read the NYT story here.

No official timeline has been set to revive the GOP health care proposal.