New GOP health care plan faces questions over how it deals with pre-existing conditions

As Republicans try to push ahead with a new plan to overhaul the Obama health law, one flash point has erupted on how the GOP effort would impact people with pre-existing health conditions, as backers and opponents have come to much different conclusions on that important policy matter.

The issue of how people with pre-existing conditions are treated has been a controversial one throughout this year’s legislative push by the GOP to coalesce behind a plan that would repeal and replace the Obama health law, as supporters of the law argue it’s one of the most popular aspects of the existing law, as it prevents insurance companies from discriminating against people because of their past medical history.

In a tweet sent out on Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump declared his strong support for the Graham-Cassidy plan, specifically trumpeting what he says is ‘coverage of pre-existing conditions.’

As for what’s in the actual proposal from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – the language does not expressly say that people with pre-existing conditions can keep their coverage without facing premium increases, as under the Obama health law.

And the bill text doesn’t expressly say that states can get rid of requirements to cover pre-existing conditions, either – but it leaves open that possibility.

Here is the only mention in the legislative text about pre-existing conditions:

The Graham-Cassidy plan would allow states to change the “Essential Health Benefits” that are required under the Obama health law – basically, these are items that must be included in health coverage by insurance companies, preventing higher premiums based on age, lifetime caps on medical coverage, and the refusal to cover certain items because of a pre-existing medical condition, and more.

Under the plan, states would be allowed to seek a waiver from the Secretary of Health and Human Services to change the EHB’s for that state; some states might want to keep the current Essential Health Benefits, while others could seek something different in terms of minimum coverage requirements.

Some outside groups, and insurance companies have said their read of the language is that coverage for pre-existing conditions would be in danger in the Graham-Cassidy plan.

The current GOP plan is to have a vote on the Graham-Cassidy language sometime next week. The Senate must act before September 30 in order to use a parliamentary procedure that prevents a Senate filibuster.

Senators will be back on Monday for votes – at this point, the GOP does not have 50 votes for this new plan.

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