Patient groups denounce 'inadequate' and 'unaffordable' GOP health bill

Patient groups denounce 'inadequate' and 'unaffordable' GOP health bill
© Greg Nash

Ten leading patient advocacy groups on Monday denounced the revised GOP healthcare bill as "inadequate" and "unaffordable" for people with major medical conditions. 

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and others criticized the latest changes to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) allowing states to apply for waivers to certain ObamaCare provisions. 

"As introduced, the bill would profoundly reduce coverage for millions of Americans — including many low-income and disabled individuals who rely on Medicaid — and increase out-of-pocket costs for the sickest and oldest among us," the groups wrote in a statement. 

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"We are alarmed by recent harmful changes to the AHCA, including provisions that will weaken key consumer protections." 

The changes, offered in an amendment by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), would allow states to apply for waivers for two ObamaCare provisions: essential health benefits, which mandates what services insurers must cover, and community rating, which requires insurers charge people the same amount regardless of their health. 

States would be able to waiver out of community rating as long as it had a "high-risk pool" for sicker people priced out of coverage. 

But the groups said high-risk pools are not a "viable option" for covering people with pre-existing conditions. 

"Previous state high risk pools resulted in higher premiums, long waiting lists and inadequate coverage," the groups said. 

While the AHCA maintains an ObamaCare provision banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, getting rid of community rating essentially makes that protection worthless. 

Insurers would be allowed to charge sicker people substantial amounts for coverage, which some may not be able to afford. 

"As Congress considers this legislation, we challenge lawmakers to remember their commitment to their constituents and the American people to protect lifesaving health care for millions of Americans, including those who struggle every day with chronic and other major health conditions." 

Leading healthcare groups also denounced the bill last week, with the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and AARP all balking at the changes.