President Donald Trump and GOP leaders are asserting that their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act will protect people with pre-existing conditions—despite fact that the current bill allows states to waive the protections, giving insurers a green light to jack up the rates of those with a chronic illness or disability.
Other rank-and-file lawmakers have been more blunt.
“People can go to the state that they want to live in,” Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC) told reporters Tuesday morning when asked if people with pre-existing conditions could be charged much more under the American Health Care Act.
“States have all kinds of different policies and there are disparities among states for many things: driving restrictions, alcohol, whatever,” he continued. “We’re putting choices back in the hands of the states. That’s what Jeffersonian democracy provides for.”
Pittenger acknowledged that under an amendment to the bill rolled out in April to win over the support of hardline conservatives, states can apply for waivers to Obamacare’s community rating rule, which limits how much insurance companies can charge people with pre-existing conditions. With no limit set in the bill for what insurers could charge, many patient advocacy groups say they’re afraid millions of people could be priced out of health insurance entirely.
AHCA would force many with pre-existing conditions into high-risk pools with SKYROCKETING premiums – possibly as high as $25,700 per year.
— AARP Advocates (@AARPadvocates) May 2, 2017
Under the GOP’s amended bill, states could also seek waivers to Obamacare’s essential health benefits rule, allowing insurers to sell bare bones plans that don’t cover things like prescription medicine, emergency room visits, or maternity care.
“This is federalism,” Pittenger said. “This brings the choices back to the American people and back to the states.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.