Ashley, one of our clients at Project Angel Heart, is 27 and has brain cancer. In some ways, she’s lucky. She’s been able to continue working part-time, earning $800 per month, while undergoing cancer treatments and enduring occasional seizures. But her part-time job offers no benefits, and her treatments are costly.
Fortunately, Ashley is eligible for Medicaid, thanks to the Medicaid expansion that occurred under the Affordable Care Act. And—as of today, anyway—she cannot be denied other, future health insurance coverage because of her pre-existing condition.
But, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), recently passed by the House and coming up for a vote in the Senate, would change that for Ashley and many other Project Angel Heart clients. It has the potential to make access to quality, affordable care nearly impossible for people living with costly, chronic, pre-existing conditions.
The AHCA, in its current draft, will hurt our most vulnerable friends and neighbors, the ones who’ve been hit hard by poverty, illness, job loss, and other tough circumstances. Here are a few of the reasons we are concerned about the current draft of the AHCA:
- The proposed legislation would remove protections for people living with pre-existing conditions like cancer and heart disease. States could apply for a waiver enabling insurance providers to simply deny coverage for people like Ashley. They’d also be able to charge significantly higher, often out-of-reach, premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.
- In a blow to people already struggling to pay for health insurance, the AHCA would raise prices for people who have a gap in health care coverage. For example, let’s say someone who’s been dealing with years of expensive medical bills becomes too sick to continue working and loses access to their employer-sponsored health plan. Unless they enroll in a new individual plan right away—which may be difficult for someone dealing with the financial strain of illness—they could be hit with a 30 percent premium surcharge when they do return to the individual market, making an already bad situation worse.
- Lastly, under the proposed plan, Medicaid expansion would end, and state funding would come in the form of a “block grant” or a per-capita payment, which would result in additional loss of coverage for many people who currently qualify for Medicaid. An estimated 600,000 Coloradans—people like Ashley—would lose coverage. The weakening of the Medicaid program has the potential to affect nearly 50 percent of Project Angel Heart’s clients.
Access to affordable, comprehensive health care should not be a luxury, accessible for a few and out of reach for those who need it most.
Whether you are employed or unemployed, wealthy or struggling financially, conservative or liberal, access to affordable and equitable health care for all matters to you. It’s essential to a healthy economy, a strong community, and a thriving workforce.
We strongly believe that if the current draft of the AHCA is not good for our most vulnerable neighbors, then it’s not good for any of us. We are hopeful that the final draft of the bill will provide access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage while maintaining a safety net for our vulnerable neighbors in need.