- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2017

People took to social media Friday to criticize the American Health Care Act for taking away Obamacare’s assurances of coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The AHCA narrowly passed in a vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday. It will go to a vote in the Senate before returning to the House to become law.

People used the hashtag “#IAmAPreExistingCondition” to highlight scores of diseases, syndromes, mental health disorders and even pregnancy that would be considered uninsurable under AHCA.

Others posted lists of dozens of pre-existing conditions that constitute denial of coverage.

One such list is a 2016 report by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, based on data from the National Health Interview Survey and the behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The list was made from reports of people denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions prior to the Affordable Care Act.

In the report, the Kaiser Family Foundation “conservatively” estimates that 27 percent of Americans under the age of 65 — or 52 million people — are disqualified from obtaining individual market coverage based on a pre-existing condition.

The conditions list includes: AIDS/HIV, Alcohol abuse/drug abuse with recent treatment, Alzheimer’s/dementia, Arthritis, fibromyalgia, other inflammatory joint disease, cancer within some period of time (around 10 years), cerebral palsy, congestive heart failure, coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery, Crohn’s disease/ulcerative colitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)/emphysema, Diabetes, epilepsy, hemophilia, Hepatitis C, Kidney disease, renal failure, lupus, mental disorders — bipolar, eating disorders, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, obesity, organ transplant, paraplegia, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, pending surgery or hospitalization, pneumocystis pneumonia, pregnancy or expectant parent, sleep apnea, stroke, transsexualism.

A copy of the list, as well as a list of declinable medications and occupations, circulated Friday on Facebook and Twitter.

The proposed American Health Care Act, which passed in the House on Thursday but will need to go to the Senate for approval and then a final vote in the House, would allow states to opt out of offering coverage of what the ACA highlighted as “10 essential health benefits” — things that all insurance companies have to cover such as emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health, among others — and certain pre-existing conditions.

“The argument for waiving the essential health benefits, the Republican argument is that this is part of what has driven up the cost of premiums,” said NPR’s congressional correspondent Susan Davis. “Should a healthy 22-year-old guy have to buy a plan that covers all those things, that covers maternity leave, that covers an ambulance ride — can’t someone just buy a plan that just covers catastrophic injury? No you can’t anymore.

“And Republicans are saying if you get rid of these, or give states the right to tailor what each state has to cover, costs will go down, and people will have more options,” she said.

Regarding pre-existing conditions, Ms. Davis said that the Affordable Care Act had a “community rating principle,” which mandated insurance companies could not charge sick people more than healthy people.

Under the AHCA, states can waive the “community rating principle,” and charge sick people more, but only if there is a lapse in their coverage greater than 63 days.

The hope is that by separating a costly, sick population, premiums will decrease for the healthy population.

For those states that enact the waiver, Republicans seek to set up a high-risk pool for sick individuals that, while more expensive, will be subsidized by the federal government.

“If states create these pools to help protect the sick people that live there, the federal government will provide money to help people pay for those expensive premiums,” Ms. Davis said. “So yes, your premiums could go up, but the Republican bill is saying we’re going to help you be able to afford it.”

However, critics say the money slotted — about $138 billion — would not be enough to make coverage affordable in these high-risk pools.

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