Negotiations are again underway in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with the Republican healthcare bill, the American Health Care Act. Utahns are already reacting to the draft legislation.
A new part of the healthcare bill is called the MacArthur Amendment. Republican Congressman Tom MacArthur of New Jersey wrote it.
The amendment would allow states to apply for waivers to get out of certain ACA requirements and change Medicaid funding into a per-person amount in each state.
Alan Ormsby is the Utah State Director of the AARP, the group that advocates for older Americans. He does not support the new amendment because he says it removes protections that stop insurance companies from charging more based on a person’s age.
"People 50-64 could see their annual premiums increase by thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars," Ormsby says.
Ormsby says even as rates for people with preexisting conditions would rise, subsidies meant to make up for those health costs will get smaller.
So, he says, "affordability will just drop out the window."
Jason Stevenson is the Education and Communications Director at the Utah Health Policy Project.
Stevenson says another big way this amendment would affect Utah is with the “essential health benefits”, categories that insurance companies have to cover under the ACA. With the new amendment, states could seek waivers so insurers wouldn’t have to cover those categories.
One essential health benefit is maternity care.
"If that were to become optional I think you would see a lot more insurance companies make it much more difficult for Utah families to get maternity care," Stevenson says.
He says another important one for Utah is mental health coverage.
"Depression, anxiety, opioid addiction, these are all major issues here in Utah and I think you’d see insurance companies really cut back on those benefits," Stevenson says.
The amendment was designed to increase support from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which endorsed it this week.