In-Depth: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced this bill to ensure that no American is denied health insurance coverage or charged a higher premium because of pre-existing conditions in the event that Obamacare is found unconstitutional in an ongoing legal challenge:
“I strongly believe that no hardworking American should ever have to go to bed worried about being denied coverage or treatment if they or their children have a pre-existing condition, which is why I’m introducing the Protect Act. The American people have two distinct choices when it comes to the future of their health care. The one-size-fits-all approach being pushed by Democrats is a government takeover of our health care system and would eliminate choices for families. The American people deserve better. The Protect Act is an important first step towards protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions and pursuing patient-centered reform that will provide all Americans with the affordable and quality choices that work best for their needs and their budget.”
Senate Health, Education, and Labor Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), an original cosponsor of this bill, added:
“This legislation reaffirms that Americans with pre-existing conditions are protected against being denied a health plan, denied treatment for a pre-existing condition, or charged more for their condition. It will make sure that regardless of what happens to Obamacare, protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions will not change.”
Obamacare is the subject of an ongoing legal challenge initiated by states with GOP leadership that has been gaining steam since a federal judge in Texas ruled that the law is unconstitutional now that its individual mandate to buy health insurance was repealed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. An appeal in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is underway, and the new House Democratic majority adopted a rules package that allows it to intervene in defense of Obamacare as the appeals process plays out, making it likely that Texas v. Azar will eventually reach the Supreme Court.
An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities progressive think tank expressed opposition to the bill despite its provisions protecting pre-existing conditions, explaining:
“This bill would reinstate three protections at risk in the Texas case — prohibiting insurers from denying applicants based on pre-existing conditions, charging higher premiums due to a person’s health status, and excluding pre-existing conditions from coverage. But it would leave many others on the cutting room floor... Under the bill, insurers could:
- Exclude coverage of essential health benefits — such as maternity coverage, mental health coverage, and substance use treatment — as many plans did before the ACA;
- Impose annual and lifetime limits on how much they will pay out (in large employer plans as well as individual-market and small business coverage);
- Sell plans with no limit on how much enrollees could owe in out-of-pocket costs if they get sick (another change that would affect large employer plans as well as the individual and small-group markets);
- Charge higher premiums based on non-health factors that can strongly correlate to health risk, including gender; and
- Charge older people (most of whom have pre-existing conditions) far more, compared to younger people, than the ACA allows.”
This legislation has the support of 22 cosponsors in the Senate, all of whom are Republicans.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: iStock.com / bymuratdeniz)