UPDATE: CNN just announced that there will NOT be a health care deal this week, before Congress returns home for two weeks for the Easter recess. This is GREAT news. But, CNN also reports, this doesn’t mean the renewed GOP effort to repeal the ACA is dead. More good news: The LAST thing Republicans wanted was to head back home for the holiday with this issue still in play? Why? Because they risk getting confronted by angry constituents, something they loathe.
So keep up the good work, send your personal letter using the tool on this page, and if you can, show up at a local town meeting.
Thanks as always, JOHN
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The new Republican health care proposal floating around Capitol Hill would effectively gut the Affordable Care Act’s (Obamacare’s) pre-existing condition protections.
If they can rally enough Republicans, they’re talking about having a vote as early as this Friday.
Currently, under the ACA, you’re protected in two ways from discrimination based on a pre-existing condition.
First, insurance companies can’t deny you insurance based on your medical history or any other reason. Pre-Obamacare, they did.
And second, insurance companies can’t charge you more for insurance than other people your age. Previously, they would, depending on your medical history, and other factors.
Lest you think you had to have something as serious as cancer for it to count as a pre-existing condition, pre-Obamacare you could get turned down for insurance simply because you had allergies, asthma, eczema, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. I had otherwise-healthy friends in their 30s turned down for those very reasons.
And if they did sell you insurance, and you had any of those benign conditions, they could charge you a LOT more. And forget about it if you actually had cancer, or any other serious illness.
Insurance companies even considered being female a pre-existing condition. Oh yes. From the NYT in 2010, pre-Obamacare:
Until now, it has been perfectly legal in most states for companies selling individual health policies — for people who do not have group coverage through employers — to engage in “gender rating,” that is, charging women more than men for the same coverage, even for policies that do not include maternity care. The rationale was that women used the health care system more than men. But some companies charged women who did not smoke more than men who did, even though smokers have more risks. The differences in premiums, from 4 percent to 48 percent, according to a 2008 analysis by the law center, can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
And finally, the Republicans are also planning on repealing the ACA’s requirement that all health insurance policies cover a minimum of services, like hospitalization, prescription drugs, emergency services, and maternity (among others).
And that’s what the Republican Congress is now planning on bringing back. A world in which people like me either won’t be able to buy insurance at all, or it will be so prohibitively expense that we’ll have to choose between going broke and going without. (For years, pre-Obamacare, I traveled to France every summer to buy my asthma drugs, as I’d save several thousand dollars per year, even counting the cost of the trip.) Or if you’re a woman, you can be charged more than men for the same exact insurance policy because, well, just because.
What exactly are the Republicans now proposing? Among other things, they want to do away with the provision that would protect you from insurance companies charging you more for insurance based on your medical history. While Republicans are claiming that this still protects you, since insurance companies “have” to sell you insurance regardless of your medical history, the insurers can simply hike your monthly payment by a couple thousand dollars per month. Or they can exclude your pre-existing condition all together — so that you’re covered for broken arms, but not your cancer or asthma or high cholesterol.
So, while the GOP is claiming that they’re not touching pre-existing conditions since insurers will still have to sell you insurance, insurers will be able to charge you so much that you won’t be able to afford it, effectively shutting you out of the market.
And for anyone who doesn’t think they’ll get cancer in their lifetime, do you know anyone who has had cancer? I do, including family members. I don’t know any family in America that hasn’t been touched by a relative with a serious condition. I can’t imagine telling them to go take a hike.
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