GOP senators finally released their new health care bill (H.R. 1628) yesterday. It brutally guts Medicaid, eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood, will increase premiums for large swaths of Americans and will cover tens of millions fewer people thereby generating thousands more avoidable deaths each year. Mental health coverage, women’s health coverage, and preventative medical coverage are bound to decrease dramatically. It’s a cruel piece of legislation; it siphons funds back up the fiscal food chain. The poor and lower class lose coverage or pay more, while the richest Americans receive enormous tax breaks. It’s some truly brazen reverse Robin Hooding.
There have been many lies peddled within this horrorshow of a bill: Trump has claimed premiums will come down and that this bill will grant “insurance for everybody.” By all accounts, it won’t do either; it was not designed to do either—it’s a tax cut. There is one particular GOP-touted falsehood, however, that must be thoroughly addressed: Many Republicans are saying this bill protects those with pre-existing conditions.
There is language in the bill that stipulates that insurers can’t charge more for coverage to those with pre-existing conditions—but states can apply to opt out, so it’s not really a protection at all. The mandate in the Affordable Care Act requiring states to cover essential health benefits is gone, which means states can cater coverage and gouge the sick if they choose to. A real “protection” does not have simple, advertised loopholes woven within its language. And if opt-outs do occur, which is almost a certainty, it will drastically impact coverage for millions of people. According to a study by the Kaiser Foundation, an estimated 27% of American adults under the age of 65 have what could be considered a pre-existing condition.
When Trump was on Face the Nation in late April, he said that he “mandated” that pre-existing condition protections are in the bill. Technically, they are in there, but the “protections” are only words, they have no true power. Under this bill individuals with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage or charged exponentially more for it. And if they are able to afford insurance, there is no guarantee that the plan will cover specific, potentially costly drugs and treatment options.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to obtain coverage, or you might not be. You might be price gouged, or you might not be. You might have a plan that covers things like vital cancer drugs and various treatments for chronic illnesses, or you might not.
This bill does not guarantee protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. End of story.
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.