ACA expert weighs in on GOP to replace Obamacare

Posted at 8:12 PM, Mar 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-07 20:13:01-05

President Donald Trump says he is proud to support House Republicans newest plan to repeal and replace Obamacare and is hoping it will pass quickly.

But there's a big question on everyone's minds this week: Can Republican lawmakers make health care more affordable to you?

The new proposal is called the American Health Care Act. It will most likely go through several changes before President Trump signs it off.

For now, experts are split. Some say insurance companies will jack up rates if millions drop out while others say the GOP bill could stabilize the market.

As House Republicans work to replace Obamacare, ACA experts like Louisa McQueeny are meeting with people in the community to answer concerns. She visited community leaders on Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale as part of the Awake the State movement across Florida.

"The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land until Congress takes action and the president signs it into law," said McQueeny, the communications director for the Florida Consumer Health Alliance.

The new legislation has several changes to existing health care law. It lifts taxes that Obamacare imposed on the wealthy, insurers and prescription drug manufacturers.

"They've taken away the individual and employer mandates," McQueeny added, "Meaning there's less money coming in. So where's the money coming from?"

The bill eliminates the enhanced federal match for Medicaid expansion and caps funding for the entire Medicaid program.

"Right now, it's matching, so if poverty goes up in a state the government will pay more. If poverty level goes down, the government will pay less," said McQueeny.

But she warned of consequences if another economic downturn occurs, in which people lose jobs and become eligible for Medicaid.

"They can either diminish the benefits so you get less or they can change the eligibility rules making it even harder to get Medicaid in the state," she said. "There's more people depending on the Medicaid program which is already a very tough program. For Floridians, it's going to be tough. Almost 50 percent of children are on Medicaid in this state."

Rep. Lois Frankel of District 21 in Palm Beach County expressed concern over the bill.

“Sadly, the proposed legislation will make America sick again. It will mean millions of families losing health care coverage and will defund Planned Parenthood, while giving out tax breaks to wealthier Americans. It shortens the life of Medicare, jeopardizing the lives of our seniors," she said in a statement.

The legislation also calls for providing refundable tax credits, based on a person's age and income -- instead of subsidies up front. However, democrats have said that could raise costs and cut benefits.

McQueeny says the bill keeps the most popular aspects of Obamacare.

"You cannot be denied coverage for a pre-exisitng condition," she said.

But there is a stipulation. If you don't have coverage for a certain period, then the insurance company can charge you an additional premium of 30 percent.

The bill also allows children to stay on parents health insurance until age 26.

McQueeny says whatever the outcome of the new health care law, she hopes that lawmakers will think of the people first.

"I think the republican party has a unique opportunity to fix it and make life better for Floridians and all Americans," she said.

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