Republicans are Citing a Bill that Undermines Protections for People with Pre-Existing Conditions to Say They Are Protecting Them

Faced with mounting pressure against their constant war on health care to undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, Republicans are rewriting history. In their ads and their responses to charges they undermine these key protections, Republicans falsely cast themselves as defenders of people with pre-existing conditions. Reps. David Young (R-IA), John Faso (R-NY), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Mike Bishop (R-MI), just to name a few, have all said they were on the side of people with pre-existing conditions.

What is even more galling is they are using, in part, their vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act to substantiate this claim.

Let’s be clear: Last year, Republicans voted for a health repeal bill – the so-called American Health Care Act – that would have gutted protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Here are the facts:

  • The House repeal bill allowed insurance companies to charge people with pre-existing conditions more. Thanks to an amendment offered by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and others, the American Health Care Act allowed states to eliminate community rating, meaning insurers would be able to charge people with pre-existing conditions more. This surcharge could be in the tens of thousands of dollars and even six figures: up to $4,270 for asthma, $17,060 for pregnancy, $26,180 for rheumatoid arthritis and $140,510 for metastatic cancer.
  • The House repeal bill would have resulted in less comprehensive coverage, meaning higher costs for people with pre-existing conditions. The American Health Care Act allowed states to waive the requirement that insurance companies cover the ten essential health benefits established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Removing these guaranteed benefits would mean insurance companies would be less likely to offer comprehensive coverage. As a result, people with pre-existing conditions would be forced to pay more to get the coverage they need. These ten essential health benefits include ambulatory services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, laboratory services, preventive services, and pediatric services.
  • The Upton Amendment did not protect people with pre-existing conditions. In an effort to win over Republicans who were holding their support of the House health repeal bill until the last minute, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) added an amendment to provide $8 billion for states that establish high risk pools. First, the funding included in the amendment was inadequate. Second, high risk pools do not provide the security for people with pre-existing conditions as they get under the Affordable Care Act. They often lead to higher premiums and less care. The American Medical Association said high risk pools result in “second-class health care coverage – if they are able to obtain coverage at all.”

Don’t take our word for it. Here is what patient advocacy and provider organizations said at the time about the House repeal bill:

  • American Medical Association: “The bill passed by the House today will result in millions of Americans losing access to quality, affordable health insurance and those with pre-existing health conditions face the possibility of going back to the time when insurers could charge them premiums that made access to coverage out of the question. Action is needed, however, to improve the current health care insurance system.
  • The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, March of Dimes, And Others: Weakening protections in favor of high-risk pools would also undermine the ban on discrimination based on health status. The individuals and families we represent cannot go back to a time when people with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage or forced to choose between purchasing basic necessities and affording their health care coverage.”
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network: “Today the House of Representatives passed a health care bill that could leave cancer patients, survivors and those at risk for the disease unable to access or keep quality health insurance. The bill would create a coverage patchwork whereby patients with pre-existing conditions could be charged more for their coverage while simultaneously weakening the rules for what health services will be covered.”
  • American Association Of Family Physicians: “This legislation will harm millions of their constituents. It will destabilize our health care system, cause 24 million Americans to lose their coverage, and allow for discrimination against patients based on their gender, age, and health status. Its inadequate and temporary high-risk pool funds are simply a band aid that does nothing to provide health security to the nearly one in three Americans who have a pre-existing condition.
  • America’s Essential Hospitals: “This is not reform. This is legislation that will take us back to a time when working individuals and families were forced to choose between health care coverage and life’s other necessities. In fact, it will leave us in a worse place than before the law it seeks to replace, the Affordable Care Act.”