GOP plan to 'protect' people with pre-existing conditions is a sham


Don't be fooled: A new GOP bill on pre-existing conditions is weak and full of loopholes.

Republicans fought for years to rip away health care protections from people with pre-existing conditions — and they were punished for it in the 2018 midterms when Americans voted them out of Congress in droves.

To try to avoid the same fate in 2020, some Republicans are pushing a new bill from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) that they claim will protect people with pre-existing conditions. But just like every other GOP effort to dismantle the health care system in recent years, it's a sham that could raise costs and gut coverage for millions of Americans.

The New York Times reports that, under Tillis' Senate bill and a similar one introduced in the House, "patients with cancer, diabetes and H.I.V., for example, would have significantly less protection under Republican proposals than under the Affordable Care Act."  

Tillis made far-fetched claims in his April 10 press release about the bill, deceptively called the Protect Act. In his statement, Tillis claims his bill "protects Americans with pre-existing conditions, ensuring that Americans have the peace of mind knowing that they and their loved ones will never be denied health care coverage or be charged more because of a pre-existing condition."

Experts say otherwise, however.

Tillis' bill contains huge loopholes that undermine its own language against discrimination based on health status, a lawyer who assisted both Republicans and Democrats in drafting health care bills told the New York Times.

For example, the bill prohibits an insurer from charging someone more "on the basis of any health status-related factor." But the bill pulls a bait and switch by also saying that it "shall not be construed to restrict the amount that an employer or an individual may be charged for coverage," according to the Times.

The Tillis bill "falls far short of its purported goal," according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Center on Budget Policies and Priorities. For example, while a cancer patient would technically be able to purchase insurance, their benefits might run out because insurance companies would still be allowed to place lifetime limits on their treatment.

Bans on these lifetime limits are just one key protection for people with pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act — which the Trump administration wants to entirely dismantle.

Tillis introduced his bill after the Trump administration announced that it will support a frivolous court case to strike down the ACA, including its provisions protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

Health care advocates wasted little time calling out the many problems with the Tillis bill.

"Guess you get to stay alive only until you hit the spending cap," Laura Packard, a cancer survivor and co-chair of Health Care Voter, told Shareblue Media.

"Just like every GOP plan released in 2017, the fine print leaves us vulnerable," Packard added, blasting what she called Tillis' "fig leaf legislation."

"The American people aren't idiots, and they know the Republican Party has spent ten years trying to rip up the health care laws and deny protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions," Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, said in a statement about the Tillis bill. He added that the bill is "just another desperate attempt by Senate Republicans to cover up their ongoing war on America's health care."

In response to a similar bill Tillis proposed in late 2018, more than 25 patient groups — including the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, March of Dimes, and National Health Council — vehemently opposed it.

Those groups said in September that under Tillis' earlier bill, "many individuals could still face higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs and, even if enrollees paid the increased premiums for many months, they could still be denied benefits because of a pre-existing condition."

Voters have overwhelmingly rejected Republican attempts to rip apart the American health care system. But instead of stopping those attacks, Republicans are just lying about them.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.