Trumpcare: Sick could face ‘extremely high premiums,’ CBO report says

States that opt out of Obamacare rules under a House bill could make sick people pay “extremely high premiums” if they could afford coverage at all, the new Congressional Budget Office report this week says.

HHS Secretary Tom Price

It’s not known if Florida would join states seeking a waiver of rules to let insurers charge sick people more — potentially lowering costs for healthy people — but CBO projected about a sixth of the U.S. population would live in states doing so. The bill would have to pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump to become law.

People with conditions such as cancer, asthma and diabetes could face much higher costs if states choose to let insurers charge them more, compared to current rules that force them to charge sick people the same way as healthy ones in a given territory.

CBO found “less healthy people would face extremely high premiums, despite the additional funding that would be available under HR 1628 to help reduce premiums. Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.”

One of the amendments to the American Health Care Act that the House passed May 4 would provide $8 billion to help states cover costs for those with pre-existing conditions.

But for every dollar the amendment spends on people with pre-existing conditions, the bill spends $29 on tax breaks for people with income above $200,000, said former Obama health spokesman Ben Wakana.

That’s in addition to $4 on a tax break for the pharmaceutical industry, $5 on a tax break for health savings accounts that largely benefit high-income people and $18 on a tax break for the health insurance industry, he said.

“This reflects the overall choices that House Republicans made in this bill: provide hundreds of billions in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of people with pre-existing conditions, tax credits for people purchasing coverage in the individual market, and people with Medicaid,” Wakana said. “It remains to be seen whether Senate Republicans will make the same choice.”

CBO warned individual markets could become “unstable” for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs in states that opted out of Obamacare mandates.

The report said a revised House bill could cover 23 million fewer people over a decade compared to leaving current law intact, down slightly from 24 million on the original March bill.

House bill supporters have said up to $138 billion would be available to help states in the next 10 years, though there’s no guarantee more than $8 billion would specifically help people with pre-existing conditions.

“Look, nobody wants folks who have a pre-existing illness or injury not to be covered,” Trump administration Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said earlier this month. “We want to make certain that we can do it at a lower price and broader choices for patients.”

 

 

 

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