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Health bill could gut protection for pre-existing conditions Fears of losing pre-existing conditions protection under GOP Doctors and patient groups are warning that the latest Republican health care bill would gut hard-won protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions

Winston-Salem Journal - 4/29/2017

WASHINGTON - From cancer to addiction, doctors and patient groups are warning that the latest Republican health care bill would gut hard-won protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Some GOP moderates who may seal the legislation's fate are echoing those concerns.

In a strongly worded statement this week, the American Medical Association said the Republican protections "may be illusory." The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said the plan could take the nation back to a "patchwork system" that pushes costs on people with life-threatening conditions.

Such stark messages may be connecting with lawmakers anxious about making the right decision on issues that touch every family. Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., said the rewritten bill "doesn't change the fundamental concerns I had at the outset ... making sure people with serious medical conditions could get affordable and adequate coverage." Count him among the GOP moderates who remain opposed.

And veteran Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said Friday he's "not comfortable" with the bill and would like to see it changed. A former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Upton said he was concerned people with pre-existing medical problems could face unaffordable premiums.

The Affordable Care Act passed under former President Barack Obama requires insurers to take all applicants, regardless of medical history. Patients with health problems pay the same standard premiums as healthy ones.

The latest version of House Republicans' American Health Care Act would allow states to opt out of the requirement for standard premiums, under certain circumstances.

If a state maintains safeguards such as a high-risk pool, it can allow insurers to use health status as a factor in setting premiums for people who have had a break in coverage and are trying to get a new individual policy.

Critics of the Republican approach say there is no requirement that a state must provide an affordable coverage option for those consumers.

Proponents say people in poor health would still be protected as long as they maintain coverage. And the higher premiums would revert back to standard rates after 12 months, assuming the customer could afford to keep paying.

 
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