Insurers warn Cruz amendment would hurt coverage of pre-existing conditions

Insurers warn Cruz amendment would hurt coverage of pre-existing conditions
© Greg Nash

The main health insurer trade group is warning Senate Republicans against including a controversial conservative amendment in their healthcare bill, saying the move would destabilize the market and harm coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) warns in a position paper obtained by The Hill that the proposal from Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Immigration drama grips Washington Senate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed MORE (R-Texas) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Energy: EPA declines to write new rule for toxic spills | Senate blocks move to stop Obama water rule | EPA bought 'tactical' pants and polos Senate blocks bid to stop Obama water rule GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border MORE (R-Utah) would cause people with pre-existing conditions to “potentially lose access to comprehensive coverage and/or have plans that were far more expensive, as premiums in the Exchange market would rise much faster than under existing market conditions.”

The lawmakers' proposal would allow insurers to sell plans that do not meet ObamaCare regulations if they also sold one plan that does. Conservatives argue this idea would allow younger and healthier people to buy cheaper plans.

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But the insurers, and many health experts, warn that sick people would be the only ones left in the more expensive, comprehensive ObamaCare plans, spiking those premiums.

“The Exchange markets would basically function like a high-risk pool — with unaffordable premiums for those with pre-existing conditions,” AHIP said. “As premiums rose, only those with the highest health needs and expenses would remain thereby accelerating the decline in the Exchange market.”

AHIP warns the proposal would lead to a “downward spiral” in the market, with higher premiums and lower enrollment.

GOP leaders are currently deciding whether to include the amendment in the bill, which is key for winning conservative support but could alienate more moderate members.

Separately on Wednesday, a coalition of patient groups, including the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, also warned against the amendment.

Those groups said the change “could create serious access and affordability
problems for any person with a pre-existing health condition, chronic disease or disability.”