On May 4, the House of Representatives voted to pass the amended version of the American Health Care Act, a GOP plan that aims to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
The new bill passed by a narrow margin and brings a small change to the Republican GOP plan, meant to ease the anxiety regarding health insurance for patients with pre-existing conditions.
According to the revised bill, the insurance state budget will be supplemented with another $8 billion, to be granted over a period of five years. This sum is intended for patients who may need to pay higher insurance rates due to coverage lapses.
The funds add to the approximately $100 billion already received by the states, payable in the span of a decade and destined to help Americans afford health insurance and stabilize the market.
After passing in Congress, the bill will now be subjected to debate in the Senate, where more changes are expected to occur.
The Problem With The GOP Plan
Experts, however, disapprove of the new health care plan, arguing the Republican bill could cut health benefits for millions of people.
In their opinion, the additional sum has little chance of serving Americans who get health insurance coverage under Obamacare, to which it may not provide a suitable alternative.
One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act states that insurance companies can't reject clients or charge them higher rates depending on their health. This is about to change, experts point out.
"Many people with pre-existing conditions will have a hard time maintaining coverage because it just won't be affordable," said Larry Levitt, a health insurance expert working with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Health Insurance Under The AHCA
One of the crucial differences the AHCA brings is the possibility for the states to obtain federal waivers that would allow insurance companies to up their premiums for clients with pre-existing medical problems who let their coverage lapse.
Patients with a health history that deems them as expensive clients for the insurance companies, as well as Americans who were unable to qualify for insurance, have the option of applying for coverage via governmental programs called "high-risk pools."
These insurance programs are funded by the states with federal money and were already in place before Obamacare.
The health care consulting firm Avalere predicts the funds proposed by the new bill will only be sufficient to finance these programs in just a few small states, where they are expected to overflow with patients experiencing a coverage lapse.
This puts Americans with pre-existing illnesses at risk of losing their health insurance, provided their conditions prevent them from doing their job.
Avalere estimates there are around 2.2 million in the individual insurance market suffering from pre-existing conditions. Senior citizens, for whom the AHCA already plans to increase premiums, are more likely to belong to this category of patients.
"There is no guarantee in the law that people with pre-existing conditions would get access to affordable coverage," said Levitt.
Medical Organizations Condemn The AHCA
In response to the House of Representatives' vote to pass the AHCA, six of the top medical organizations in the United States, representing more than 560,000 physicians and medical students, teamed up to speak against the Republican bill, which they describe as "inherently flawed" and fear would "do great harm" to their patients.
The six organizations — the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Osteopathic Association — publicly declared their disapproval of the new bill, stating they are "deeply disappointed" of the vote.
"Regrettably, the AHCA, as amended and passed by the House, violates our principles, dramatically increasing costs for older individuals, resulting in millions of people losing their health care coverage, and returning to a system that allows insurers to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions," said organization representatives in a joint statement.