"Essential" Health Benefits Could Be At Risk Under GOP American Health Care Act

May 16, 2017

The United States Senate will soon take up for consideration the GOP House bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

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Under the American Health Care Act, states could seek waivers opting them out of some patient protections. The waivers would allow insurance companies to consider health status when deciding the cost of premiums -- and some patients could see premiums rise.  

It would also allow states to eliminate so-called essential health benefits, including coverage for prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and other services required under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Wendy Patton, from the nonprofit research institute Policy Matters Ohio, says the changes could leave millions of people across the state without affordable coverage.

“There are 11.5 million Ohioans. Maybe close to half of us have what could be considered a preexisting condition," Patton says. "So it puts us back into that state of insurance insecurity. It's become sort of a 'there but for the grace of God go I' kind of situation.”

The American Health Care Act also proposes $880 billion in cuts to Medicaid. The bill also calls for funding the program through finite state grants instead.

More than 700,000 Ohioans have received coverage through Medicaid since 2014.  In a statement, Gov. John Kasich said the bill doesn’t do enough to maintain health care for the state’s most vulnerable residents.