A day after the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of a bill by GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives replacing former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, health care advocates and protesters gathered outside the downtown Cincinnati office of Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, asking him not to support the legislation.
Portman represents one of the 52 GOP Senators who will have to modify and vote to pass the American Health Care Act — a tall order given the bill’s contentious nature. The legislation would decrease the federal deficit by about $119 billion, but at a steep cost. The CBO estimates that 23 million Americans could lose health coverage over the next decade under the bill the GOP passed out of the House May 4. That includes 14 million people next year alone, many of them losing health care coverage as $800 billion is slashed from Medicaid over time. The bill would not just rollback an Obama-era expansion of Medicaid, which states like Ohio accepted, but reduce the program further. About 700,000 Ohioans benefited from the Medicaid expansion, all of whom would lose coverage under the new bill. An additional 293,000 on private health care could also lose coverage under the AHCA, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat.
The bill also provides means for states to seek waivers allowing insurance companies to charge more for coverage to health care consumers with pre-existing conditions — something that has raised ire from groups representing health care providers and congressional Democrats.
Carrying signs and chanting in opposition to the AHCA, Representatives from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, the Human Rights Campaign, the Universal Health Care Action Network and about two dozen speakers and protesters gathered outside the Scripps Building on Walnut downtown where Portman has an office. Portman is in Washington, D.C. today for Senate hearings about the nation’s opiate crisis.
Among those gathered downtown were Portman constituents who had personal stories about the ACA.
“When the ACA was passed, insurance companies could no longer dictate whether or not I would receive the care I needed,” said Melissa Schmidbauer, who has Crohn’s Disease. She says she was unable to gain coverage prior to the ACA due to that pre-existing condition. Her health deteriorated to the point where medication was insufficient to manage the disease, and she required a series of surgeries. Those were covered when the ACA became law.
“I know if the Affordable Care Act had been around just a couple years earlier, I wouldn’t have to go through all this,” she said. “Right now, insurance companies must cover millions of Americans such as myself who suffer with a pre-existing conditions. Under this bill, our premiums could spike so high that we would essentially be priced out of the market.”
Portman hasn’t given any detailed statements about the bill following the release of the CBO score but seemed to nod to the fact the Senate will rework the legislation.
"We will review the new analysis as we work on a different approach here in the Senate," Portman's office told the Columbus Dispatch following the release of the CBO analysis yesterday evening.
The bill faces a tough slog there, with even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky acknowledging he’s not sure how the legislation will get the votes needed to pass.
"I don't know how we get to 50 at the moment," he told Reuters yesterday. "But that's the goal."