Major insurance groups call part of GOP health bill 'unworkable'

Cheryl Sanders
July 17, 2017

After much wrangling, the House eventually passed a bill that was imperfect in its approach, and was essentially a punt to the Senate to come up with a better solution.

The BCRA reverts individual health insurance markets to their pre-Obamacare days. The Texas Republican is pushing to allow insurers to sell policies on the federal exchanges that don't meet the regulations laid out in the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), so long as an insurer offers one plan that does comply with the law.

Senate Republican leaders trying to resolve differences between moderates and conservatives ahead of a health care showdown are taking a close look at the proposal from Sens.

America's Health Insurance Plans, an insurer trade group, warns that the conservative amendment to allow companies to sell skimpy plans would destabilize the market and harm coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

"This is particularly true for patients with pre-existing conditions - who would be most affected and potentially lose access to comprehensive coverage", as marketplace premiums "rise much faster than under existing market conditions and insurance options dwindle", the memo continued. The only important tax cuts were for the 3.8 percent investment income surtax and increased payroll taxes for higher income employees, which the new Senate proposal removed. Almost all of this population earns more than 350 percent above the federal poverty level - the cutoff point in the Senate bill for receiving federal subsidies to help purchase marketplace coverage. The Cruz amendment would worsen the situation, the executive said.

"It's not really freedom".

Even if the exchanges were collapsing into a death spiral, it would not justify their plans to slash Medicaid, a program that does not require actuarial balance and is not even theoretically susceptible to a death spiral. It has taken a few years, but they have corrected the error and settled in at a stable level.

But there were also some consumers who bought lower-cost coverage without understanding the limitations of such plans, which companies and brokers marketed heavily, said Pollitz at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Two of the 52 GOP senators have already said they will oppose the legislation.

The Congressional Budget Office is analyzing the Cruz/Lee amendment to see how it would affect coverage. But moderates have anxious it will cause people with serious illnesses to lose coverage, and some conservatives say it doesn't go far enough. No final text has been made public, but the concept has been endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence.

The attempt to hastily devise a fix for a problem the Republican bill itself creates is symptomatic of the degree to which their plan has lost all touch with its rationale.

Laguens said: "Thanks to the birth control benefit in the ACA, more than 55 million women now have access to birth control without co-payments".

"Supporting this amendment should be a no-brainer", McIntosh said in a statement.

David McIntosh declared that Senate Republicans must take action to repeal Obamacare.

If the latest effort fails, maybe Lee and the other senators will listen to constituents like Bivin and Matheson - and thousands more like them - and turn their attention to fixing the flaws in Obamacare instead of pursuing a path that puts meaningful health care out of reach for millions. Republicans have had a long time to whiteboard some ideas.

In order to reduce costs, these on-exchange Obamacare-compliant plans will continue to receive federal premium tax credits and dedicated sources of federal stability funding. Rand Paul expressed his opposition to such "price controls", calling them "foreign to any notion of capitalism or free markets". It took effect four months after President Obama signed the ACA into law in 2010, and was created to cover people insurers had rejected while the exchanges were being set up, which took four years.

"So you basically sell a non-health insurance health insurance plan", she said.

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