Proposed healthcare change is a painful issue
Patients with pre-existing conditions worry about high cost
By Jakeira Gilbert
Regular visits to the emergency room have been part of Lyric Porter’s lifestyle since birth when the Tallahassee resident was diagnosed with sickle-cell.
Coping comes with a hefty bill for treatment. But she’s found some financial reprieve since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2003.
However, lately Porter and millions of Americans with pre-existing health conditions have been feeling a sense of angst over not knowing if they will be forced to pay more for health insurance or go without it.
The uncertainty began a month ago when the House of Representatives – by a narrow vote – passed changes to what is known as Obamacare. Led by Republicans, the changes being pushed by President Donald Trump are an attempt to repeal the current healthcare act.
“Trumpcare will be a disadvantage to many people, such as myself, with pre-existing conditions,” Porter said. “We already have extensive hospital bills from receiving healthcare treatments regularly. It is unfair to be punished for being diagnosed with chronic illnesses that you already have to get treatment for to remain healthy.”
The proposed changes, which were sent on to the Senate for the final step in overhauling the current law, also will affect those who use Medicaid and Medicare. Older Americans could also see dramatic increases in the cost of health insurance.
The proposed changes could have a big affect on Leon County, according to figures published by Healthinsurance.org. The county makes up part of Florida’s 1,742,819 enrollees who are covered by insurance companies that are known as exchanges.
Florida’s participation in the exchanges showed a 12.7 percent increase in 2017. But whether those numbers will remain the same with the proposed changes in the healthcare act, is what’s bothering most of those with pre-existing conditions.
Under the current law, people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and sickle cell aren’t charged a higher premium or denied coverage. Under Trumpcare, states would have the right to decide whether companies in the exchange could charge patients with pre-existing conditions more.
“We are the people who need to be covered by insurance more than anyone else,” Porter said. “And, to have to pay more to stay healthy and live the same quality of life as others is very unacceptable.
“I’m afraid that Trumpcare will cause many Americans to fall into debt and force them to make decisions between paying rent and paying their hospital bills.”
Older patients also are concerned about the affects of the proposed bill. It contains changes that allow insurance companies to charge up to five times the average for older patients.
“It’s not a good thing for people who are retired that didn’t carry over their insurance after they left their place of employment,” said Thelma Long, a Tallahassee retiree who uses Medicaid.
Long, who is diabetic, also worries about the cost that the elderly with pre-existing conditions will have to pay.
“They are subject to the control of the insurance providers because someone could change your premiums in the middle of the year,” she said. “The way governmental policies are being shifted around, retired citizens with unprotected insurance plans could be at a real disadvantage.”
The bill before the Senate also includes measures for expansion that will reduce the number of people who would be qualified for Medicaid. Such a change also would be a setback for Medicaid patients with pre-existing conditions.
“Trumpcare will be unfortunate for people who have Medicaid/Medicare because it was already hard for them to get insurance and the treatment that they need from Obamacare,” said Kalexia Miller, a college student who has been closely monitoring the attempt to repeal Obamacare.
“Ultimately, Trumpcare will be detrimental to Americans that rely on serious life or death healthcare attention that Obamacare allowed them to have access to.”
While the bill is being reviewed by the Senate, several medical organizations have spoken out against any change. The move to do away with Obamacare has also risen the ire of several local healthcare advocates, including Dr. Edward Holifield.
“People don’t get sick because they want to get sick,” Holifield said. “I think everybody should have access to healthcare. Trumpcare is immoral.”