“This bill threatens healthcare coverage and independence for people with pre-existing conditions and people who receive community-based supports through Medicaid,” said Rahnee Patrick, Access Living’s Director of Independent Living.
Under the bill, states could create high risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions. The pools will be created because the AHCA will allow states to have insurance that prices people with pre–existing conditions out of the market and doesn't cover their health needs. The AHCA earned enough votes to pass after an amendment was included that will add $8 billion over five years to help people pay the premiums anticipated in high–risk pools. Yet, historically, high risk pools have not worked for people. Analysis from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund indicates that, of States that have offered high risk pools in the past:
• ten states offered deductibles that were at least $5000
• a few states outright capped or closed enrollment to control program costs, and even at its highest enrollment point in 2011, state high risk pools only served on average 2% of non–group health insurance market participants, despite the fact that 27% of adults under the age of 65 have health conditions that, prior to the ACA, would have rendered them uninsurable due to a pre–existing condition
• almost all state pools imposed lifetime coverage limits, and over half imposed annual limits on all benefits or on specific benefits such as prescription drugs or mental health treatment
Also, states won’t be required to create high risk pools, the funds in high risk pools won’t necessary go to support people with pre-existing conditions, and the $8 Billion is not nearly enough to benefit people with pre-existing conditions who are priced out of the market. According to the Center for American Progress, at least $200 Billion is needed to ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions who are in the high risk pools, which is estimated to be only one-tenth of all people with preexisting conditions.
“The bill passed by the House today will not ensure coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” Patrick said. “The bill allows loopholes that permit discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.”
In addition, the American Health Care Act will cut federal dollars from programs that support people with disabilities in their own homes instead of more costly institutions, and will cut Essential Health Benefits -- such as mental health and substance abuse recovery programs, and rehabilitation services such as wheelchairs.
“Leading up to the May 4 vote, disability groups throughout the United States voiced opposition to this legislation,” said Amber Smock, Access Living’s Director of Advocacy. “Yet, this legislation fails to reflect the concerns of people with disabilities, and it fails to reflect the reality of the lives of people with disabilities. This legislation will not support the right of people with disabilities to get quality supports in communities instead of institutions. It will not ensure access to specialized services and equipment that provide independence. It will not keep healthcare affordable for people with disabilities. Rather, this legislation is the product of deals cut at the expense of people with disabilities.”
Despite the outcome of the House vote on May 4, Access Living and the disability community will continue to fight back against the American Health Care Act. Access Living calls on the U.S. Senate to reject the legislation, and listen to the voices of people with disabilities.
Access Living and members of the disability community are available for comment and reaction. For more information, contact Gary Arnold, Access Living, (773) 425-2536 (mobile), GArnold@accessliving.org.