KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- House Republicans took their first steps towards repealing and replacing The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act.
First, it gets rid of penalties for failing to have health insurance. Thursday's version passed by the House made a small change to the plan designed to combat concerns over coverage for those with pre-existing health problems. The change helped get the bill through the House of Representatives.
The bill proposes setting aside an additional $8 billion over five years to help states cover those who may be subject to higher insurance rates because they've had a lapse in coverage. That's on top of about $100 billion over a decade for states to help people afford coverage and stabilize insurance markets.
Sara Scott has Crohn’s Disease, an auto-immune disorder where her body attacks her intestines.
“There are these debilitating cramps that you get where I couldn’t even move or walk around, so it can take you out definitely," Scott said.
Thankfully for her there’s a treatment covered by her husband’s insurance.
“It’s $5,000 every time I get it, and I have to get mine every two months,” Scott said.
But now she’s worried what could happen to those infusions under the Republican version of the health care bill the House passed on Thursday. Doctors have already warned her that should she miss one infusion, it’s a lifetime of pain.
“There’s no way at what I make I could afford my treatments, and when I did have my surgery last year for my Crohn’s Disease my doctors told me if I hadn’t gotten it I would have died,” she said.
Under the American Health Care Act, states will be able to get federal waivers allowing insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing illnesses who have let their coverage lapse. States can then use federal money to fund government-operated insurance programs for expensive patients called "high-risk pools."
U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder said, "Today I voted to fix our broken health care system, choose markets over mandates, innovation over regulation, & patients over bureaucrats.”
Proponents of the bill note that people in poor health would still be protected as long as they maintain coverage. If they don't, the higher premiums they are charged would revert back to standard rates after 12 months, assuming the customer could afford to keep paying.
In the past, risk pools have not guaranteed coverage. States have established waiting lists to get into their risk pools or restricted admission to the pools, since they ultimately have to balance their budget and they have no way to predict how high costs will climb.
But Scott doesn’t think those who voted for the bill were thinking about patients at all.
“I’m an American, I pay my taxes I work a full-time job, I do what the American dream is supposed to be about. But they are going to make it hard for me to pay for insurance and possibly not even have health insurance and that could result in me not getting treatment and possibly shorten my life.”
Patients who couldn't get or afford insurance could apply for coverage through high risk pools, which existed before the Affordable Care Act was passed. Even though they were charged far higher rates, up to double the amount paid by consumers with no serious ailments, care for these patients is so expensive that government money was needed to fund the programs.
The Congressional Budget Office said the last version of the health care bill would cost 24 million Americans coverage, but save the country $337 billion dollars over 10 years.
The bill now heads for the Senate, where it is expected to change.