In May 2017, President Trump’s new budget announced plans for more than $800 billion of cuts from Medicaid, a low cost insurance that brings access to healthcare for poorer or disadvantaged people. Coverage is essentially free aside from a small co-pay paid at each medical visit. The reduction in budget could see 10 million lose their entitlement to coverage. There are also fears that disabled people and those with pre-existing illnesses will no longer be able to receive funding for their medical treatment.
Lack of Insurance Kills 45,000 a Year
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is more commonly known, lack of medical insurance and inability to fund treatment caused the deaths of 45,000 Americans every year, or one every 12 minutes, more than the annual figure for drunk driving and murder put together. The act made it a requirement for everyone to obtain coverage and those who couldn’t find a provider could look through a list on the federal exchange and apply to one of the listed insurance companies. One of the best features of the act was the abolition of the unethical insurance company practice of excluding people with pre-existing conditions from their policies. This meant that the people who most needed medical help – those with diabetes, a history of previous heart attacks, asthma or complex chronic ill health were left to fund their own care. Astronomical bills prevented this even being a possibility for the poorest in the community, who just had to live with their conditions and often died as a result.
Now that The Affordable Care Act may be repealed in favor of The American Healthcare Act and Trump has planned such drastic cuts to provision, it is feared that the strides made in banning unethical practices will be lost.
Trump Says Pre-Existing Conditions will be Covered, Public Skeptical
President Trump, in answer to his critics, has said that there is a pre-existing condition clause in ‘Trump Care’, that expressly forbids insurance companies from barring chronically ill people and that all people in that situation will be covered ‘beautifully’. The wording in the act states:
‘Nothing….shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit to limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.’
It sounds great on first read, but there are waivers in the new bill that would allow states to opt out if they can show that by having the waiver they would reduce premiums for the majority or increase uptake of insurance policies. People who have pre-existing conditions have not been exempted from this get out clause and so a sizable portion of the population could find that while they are not barred from applying, they could be charged thousands of dollars extra just for being sick.
One study by the Kaiser Family Health Foundation, found that people with health problems were frequently given inflated surcharges if they reported a condition in their application. Patients who have survived cancer could expect double the annual bill and those with depression could pay 50% more than the average premium, draining vulnerable people of resources and restricting their access to medical care at a time when they need it most. While this study was conducted prior to the change in the law, the opt out clause theoretically allows insurers to hyke their prices as they want.
Insurers Decide What a Pre-Existing Condition Is
Insurers are in charge of defining what a pre-existing condition is and they can make this choice with extraordinary scope, when deciding what to charge a customer. Something as simple as needing glasses or having broken a leg in the past could qualify as a pre-existing condition. So too could having a disability that the individual was born with – even if it is stable – or having had a routine caesarean section in the past. Women with insurance policies that include maternity coverage and who have had a surgical delivery could find that their co-pay skyrockets when they have a subsequent child. These price rises will put coverage out of the reach of many people and in the proposed new law – the American Health Care Act – the mandate to get a policy is removed. This will only lead to people who actually need treatment going without it.
Doctors Warn Government Will Have Blood on its Hands
A group of doctors have warned that if insurers are allowed to surcharge or place limits on lifetime coverage, patients will start dying.
Dr Leana Wen recalled a patient she had prior to the Affordable Care Act – a successful attorney in his 20’s – who could not afford medication to control a seizure disorder because his premiums were a staggering $8,000 every month. He ended up in her ER department in a seizure that lasted an hour. The brain damage that ensued meant that he never woke up again. Death due to lack of medicine should not be something that occurs in modern America, but with the power to redefine what they term ‘essential’ coverage and potentially charge people for requiring life or death treatment, sad stories like that will only become commonplace.