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PNS Daily Newscast - December 14, 2017 


GOP leaders reach an agreement on their tax bill, we have a report on the likely squeeze on state and local revenues; also on our nationwide rundown; should ex-felons have the right to vote or own guns? And we will clue you in on the most dangerous place to drive this holiday season.

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Loss of Pre-Existing-Conditions Benefit Could Hike Insurance Costs

Advocates say millions of Americans between ages 50 and 64 could pay more for health insurance if the American Health Care Act is approved without a pre-existing conditions benefit. (alvarez/GettyImages)
Advocates say millions of Americans between ages 50 and 64 could pay more for health insurance if the American Health Care Act is approved without a pre-existing conditions benefit. (alvarez/GettyImages)
May 4, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- The House could vote today on the latest version of the American Health Care Act, but advocates say this bill could put an even greater number of older Americans at risk of losing their health coverage.

The removal of protections for those with pre-existing conditions could cause health insurance costs to skyrocket for millions of people with chronic conditions - or they could have their coverage canceled.

Michael Rowett, director of communications for AARP Arkansas, said the proposed changes making the rounds in Congress are not fair to those who were protected under the Affordable Care Act.

"Allowing insurance companies to once again discriminate against Americans and Arkansans with pre-existing conditions because they've had cancer, diabetes or heart disease, for example, frankly makes a bad bill even worse,” Rowett said.

Republicans' first attempt to "repeal and replace" Obamacare in March never came to a vote because of a lack of support. Since then, several changes - including the pre-existing conditions clause - have been proposed. But as of Wednesday, passage was not assured.

Backers of the bill say it makes health coverage more fair and that it would lower premiums overall.

A proposal to put $8 billion into so-called high-risk pools brought some representatives back into the fold, but Rowett said it isn't nearly enough to cover the cost.

"The funding levels are not adequate at all, according to the Commonwealth Fund,” he said. "It will cost $178 billion a year to adequately fund high-risk pools today, which is unlikely in the current environment."

According to Rowett, AARP's Public Policy Institute estimates that the loss of a pre-existing conditions benefit could affect up to 40 percent of all older Americans.

"Arkansas would be among the hardest hit of all states. An estimated 52 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds in Arkansas - that's about 280,000 Arkansans - have a deniable pre-existing condition and thus risk losing access to affordable insurance coverage,” Rowett said.

Some moderate House Republicans have balked at voting for the latest version of the American Health Care Act, saying it would harm too many of their constituents. But GOP leaders are hoping to pass the measure before Congress leaves Washington on Friday for an 11-day recess.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AR