Those of us personally affected by cancer see proposed changes in health insurance in very concrete terms. The changes aren’t abstractions that may affect us at some point in time in the future. Instead, the changes are very real and will affect our medical and economic well-being when a new law is implemented.
The House of Representatives recently passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), and the Senate is considering whether to support the AHCA, modify it, or draft completely new legislation.
While we recognize that health care reform is complex and involves difficult tradeoffs, we strongly believe that any new legislation must:
- Provide coverage for pre-existing conditions: People with cancer (or any serious illness) must be able to purchase health insurance at the same price as everyone else.
- Continue expanded Medicaid coverage: Many people with cancer now receive care only because Medicaid was expanded to include the “near poor” (with incomes up to 133% of the poverty line). If Medicaid reverts to covering only the very poor (with incomes below the poverty line), millions of people – many with cancer – will lose their coverage, but will be too poor to purchase insurance coverage on their own.
- Protect older Americans: The AHCA allows insurance companies to charge older adults five times what they charge younger adults for the same coverage. The greatest concern is for people between the ages of 55 and 64 – before they become eligible for Medicare. The General Accounting Office estimates that the annual health insurance premium for a 64-year-old with an income of $26,500 would increase from $1,700 today to $13,600 or more under the AHCA – an eight-fold difference.
The point of insurance is to share the risk and to have financial protection when misfortune strikes. Although we can’t legislate a cure for cancer, we can legislate insurance reform that makes sense and protects individuals with cancer from financial ruin.
Bob Riter William Highland
Executive Director Board President