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GOP bills would erase protections for sick Americans

Noam N. Levey, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, despite repeated pledges to preserve sick Americans' access to health coverage, are poised to scrap this core insurance protection in their campaign to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

The House GOP bill that passed in May and the revised Senate GOP bill announced last week would effectively eliminate the coverage guarantee by allowing health insurers to once again sell skimpier plans and charge more to people with preexisting health conditions who need more-comprehensive coverage.

At the same time, the House and Senate bills would significantly scale back financial aid to low- and moderate-income consumers, and slash funding for Medicaid, the government safety-net plan that has helped millions of sick and poor Americans gain coverage.

That combination -- looser insurance requirements and less financial assistance for patients -- would once again put health plans out of reach for millions of sick Americans, according to numerous analyses.

"The fundamental guarantee at the heart of the Affordable Care Act was that people who are sick can get insurance at the same price as everyone else," said Larry Levitt, an insurance market expert at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. "The House and Senate replacement bills move the system back to a place where healthy and sick people are treated very differently."

The Senate is slated to begin voting on its health care bill this week.

The Affordable Care Act's coverage guarantee remains among the most popular parts of the 2010 law, with nearly 7 in 10 Americans rating it favorably.

Trump administration officials and GOP congressional leaders insist the Republican bills won't leave anyone behind.

"The legislation ensures that every American with pre-existing conditions has access to the coverage and care they need, no exceptions," Vice President Mike Pence told a meeting of the National Governors Association in Rhode Island Friday.

But that assurance has been contradicted by nearly every independent evaluation of the Republican health care bills, including two lengthy reports by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

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