Ryan touts choice, Frankel says AHCA will ‘kill a lot of people’

Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday promoted “choice and competition” he said will be fostered by the GOP House overhaul of Obamacare, but a West Palm Beach congresswoman warned of deadly consequences for people needing help from opioid addiction, mental illness and pre-existing health conditions.

“The problem is the states are not going to have enough money to fund a better system,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach. “This bill is going to kill a lot of people.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, speaks Monday near St. Mary’s Medical Center about the GOP House health bill surrounded by health advocates concerned about its effects. (Charles Elmore/Palm Beach Post)

Just last week Florida Gov. Rick Scott recognized a statewide emergency with the opioid epidemic, she noted.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the American Health Care Act does not permit health insurers to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, though it can charge them 30 percent more if they do not maintain continuous coverage.

On NBC’s “Meet The Press” Sunday, Price responded to critics: “What I believe they are not recognizing is this is a different and we believe better way” to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions or injuries.

The bill provides about $138 billion over 10 years to help states if they choose to set up “high risk pools” to cover people with pre-existing conditions, but many analysts said that likely will not be nearly enough.

The issue is not just being able to get a policy, but at what cost, said Brent Schillinger, a medical consultant on the board of Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network).

It does little good “if the premium, or the co-pays and deductibles, are so high you cannot afford it,” Schillinger said.

The bill, which awaits consideration by the Senate, is really designed to fund a roughly $1 trillion tax cut for companies and wealthy people, Democrats in Congress say. The original March version of the bill would push 24 million people out of insurance coverage, the Congressional Budget Office found. A score on the revised bill is expected as early as this week.

Local representatives from groups including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, The American Heart Association and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society attended Monday’s gathering near St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach.

Younger, healthier and higher-income people could save money under the House bill, which eliminates Obamacare taxes and subsidies, replaces them with tax credits from $2,000 to $4,000 available to a broader range of income levels, and allows states to let insurers offer less comprehensive plans.

“Obamacare is collapsing,” Ryan tweeted Monday. “This bill brings back choice and competition in our health care system.”


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