GOP Efforts To Repeal Obamacare May Be Failing, But They're Still Affecting Texans

Sep 27, 2017

Nora Chovanec showed off the chickens in her backyard last March while talking about a newly proposed Republican health care bill to replace Obamacare.

The 29-year-old was on a health care plan through the online marketplace created by Obamacare. It allows people who don’t get insurance through an employer to buy a plan on their own.

Under the GOP plan proposed at the time, Chovanec was poised to get some more money.

“I, as a young healthy person, would actually benefit,” she said. “This plan would save me money on my taxes at the end of the year.”

But Chovanec said the plan didn’t sit right with her because older and sicker people would be forced to pay more.

The bill eventually died in Congress. And so did another Republican plan. Chovanec said she's been watching each of the bills closely.

“I definitely have been worried this year," she said, "because I didn’t know if I was going to continue to have health insurance, if the whole marketplace was going to disappear, if they were going to change it, and I was going to have really terrible health insurance or my premium was going to skyrocket.”

The latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to pass at this point. With a deadline at the end of the week, the bill, known as Graham-Cassidy, is three votes short. It's the third major GOP effort this year to get rid of Obamacare.

The possibility that Obamacare could be repealed has affected Texans like Chovanec. In fact, the uncertainty made her think it would be better to get rid of her Obamacare plan.

“"Actually, just two weeks ago I made the decision to go on my husband’s health insurance,” she said.

Chovanec said she’s lucky to have that option to fall back on, but the decision wasn’t easy.

For one thing, her premiums under her husband’s insurance are more expensive. Under her Obamacare plan, she paid $180 a month. Now she pays $270 a month.

More importantly, Chovanec said, she didn’t want to leave Obamacare because of what it meant.

“When I called to cancel my insurance – even though I'm going to get better health insurance that's more expensive – I still felt sad,” she said. “I felt sad in leaving this kind of larger, in my mind, social good. And so, I didn’t want to have to jump ship. I felt like I was forced into it, because I didn’t know whether I was going to have insurance in a couple of months.”

Fingers Crossed

The feeling is shared by many people watching the health care debate. No one really knows what their choices will be next year.

That’s been a problem for Victoria Tisor, who also talked to KUT back in March.

Victoria Tisor decided to go without health insurance for the year, but if Obamacare is around in November, she plans to shop around.
Credit Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Tisor, 60, couldn’t find a plan she could afford in the Obamacare marketplace, so she decided to risk it.

“I went without health care insurance this year,” she said. She joined a wellness center and started an exercise routine. “[I] focused on my health, instead of my sickness."

Tisor said everything is working out fine – for now.

“Where I am vulnerable is if an accident happens, something catastrophic," she said. "I wouldn’t be covered. So, of course I'm following all the bills that are coming up and what is going on.”

So far, Tisor said, none of those Republican repeal bills have been good news for her situation. But she said she hasn’t given up completely on finding a plan.

She said if Obamacare is still around during open enrollment in November, she plans to shop around.

“I am going to look again, you know?” Tisor said. "And if I feel like I can find an insurance policy that I can afford that covers something, then I'll probably make that decision.”

In a few years Tisor will have her own backup plan: She'll be eligible for Medicare.

Single-Payer Health Care

Both Chovanec and Tisor said they were encouraged by at least one health care bill that was introduced in Congress this year.

“My little bit of hope, though, is that maybe with all this insanity, we'll get a national single-payer health care system,” Chovanec said, referring to a bill introduced by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Tisor said she’s excited that single payer is being talked about, again. She said she’s been following the issue since the 1990s.

“Single payer would obviously be more cost effective for the entire country,” she said. “I mean, that would be the best.”

For now, of course, a single-payer bill faces even worse odds in Congress than any of the Republican bills that have been proposed so far.