Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives took another stab at repealing and replacing Obamacare on Thursday, passing the American Health Care Act.
Supporters say the bill will lower costs and give consumers more options. But experts say the bill, as written, probably won’t do that in Texas.
“The bill started out bad and it actually got worse over time before it was passed,” Stacey Pogue from the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities said.
Pogue said just like the first version of AHCA, the new one has some unpopular features. It raises premiums for older folks in the individual health insurance market and it cuts Medicaid, among other things.
This new bill also affects everyone with a health care plan through their employer.
“Obamacare didn’t change that much for those plans, but it did put in lifetime limits and out-of-pocket maximums,” Pogue said. “And what that means is with your health care you’ve got some assurances that, if you get really sick, you won’t go bankrupt.”
Those assurances are now left up to states, she said.
Under this GOP plan, Texas could allow insurance companies to hike up how much people pay out of pocket. Texas lawmakers could also lift requirements that insurance plans pay for so-called “essential benefits” – things like emergency room visits or even medication.
The AHCA also eliminates assurances that people with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable insurance plans.
“The bill really hurts low- and moderate-income Texans,” Pogue said.
Dr. Deane Waldman with the right-leaning Texas Public Policy Foundation said he’s not too thrilled with this plan, either.
“This version, in a sense is, of course, it’s similar [to the last GOP plan] – and it is worse,” he said.
Now, his problems with this bill and its predecessor are obviously different.
Waldman said the AHCA is not really conservative enough. He said it keeps in all the regulatory framework of Obamacare, which he argues is the biggest problem.
“Because that bureaucracy costs a lot of money and that is money that is taken from providers. So, we're going to have less care and that’s the key," he said, "and our children are going to have to pay this debt back."
Waldman said he was glad the bill gets rid of some new taxes and insurance regulations, but overall it will hurt a lot of Texans.
Advocates say vulnerable populations will be affected the most because of deep cuts to Medicaid.
Stacy Wilson, president of the Children’s Hospital Association of Texas, said those cuts could hit programs that serve a lot of children in the state, including screening programs.
Without early detection and prevention, "you are going to end up with sicker kids that aren’t going to be able to be healthy adults to contribute to our economy,” she said.
The Medicaid cuts would also affect programs that serve the elderly, as well as adults and children with disabilities.