Texas high-risk patients call GOP health care bill a ‘frightening reality’

FILE - Doctor (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Doctor (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Back in 2014, Julie Sullivan lived through six chemotherapy sessions — 30 days of radiation and a mastectomy with reconstructive surgery.

Today, she is in remission, but takes a daily diet of hormones to keep her breast cancer at bay. Her treatment costs thousands of dollars.

Under the American Health Care Act, Sullivan would join millions of patients across Texas with preexisting conditions, who may see their health care costs skyrocket.

“I am going to face extremely high premiums, probably unaffordable premiums,” Sullivan said. “Because they’ve decided that insurance companies might be able to charge as much as five times as you.”

Under the American Care Act, also called Obamacare, all preexisting conditions were covered. But the AHCA allows insurers to set premiums based on medical history, under certain circumstances.

Preexisting conditions include a slew of disorders and diseases, like cancer, diabetes, Autism and in some cases, pregnancy. Sullivan says it touches someone in everyone’s family.

“We have a friend who has a daughter with a heart condition. She’s graduated from college,” Sullivan said. “But she still has a heart condition.”

Under the new plan, states can get a waiver requiring them to set up a high-risk pool for people with preexisting conditions. It would essentially help states reimburse insurance providers for covering high-risk patients. And the new plan would also provide $8 billion over the next 10 years to fund the pool.

Plus, insurers would be able to charge sick people far more for plans if their coverage has lapsed. AHCA would allow health care companies to factor their preexisting condition into their premium or they might not include treatments for a high-risk patient’s condition.

Members of the House approved the bill Thursday. The measure now moves to the Senate.

“One-third of the entire country — of counties only have one provider. And, next year they won’t have any,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California. “So if we do nothing, we’re going to hear a very loud cry that people are not having health care.”

Sullivan isn’t so sure.

“It sound good,” she said. “I know somebody who was in a preexisting Texas health pool before Obamacare. Their premiums were extraordinarily high. They had a hard time finding providers who would take their plan; and, they had high deductibles. [AHCA] won’t take care of the need that’s out there.”

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