Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

GOP's 'Obamacare' Repeal Path Worries Health Care Industry

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

GOP's 'Obamacare' Repeal Path Worries Health Care Industry

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * One by one, key health care industry groups are telling the incoming Republican administration and Congress that it's not a good idea to repeal the 2010 health care law without clear plans to address the consequences.

Hospitals, insurers and actuaries bean-counters who make long- range economic estimates weighed in recently, and more interest groups are expected to make their views known soon. Representing patients, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network reminded lawmakers that lives are at stake.

The concern goes beyond the obvious potential hardship for 20 million people covered by subsidized private insurance and expanded Medicaid under President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.

Hospitals say a stand-alone repeal would cost them billions, compromising their ability to serve patients. Insurers say Congress must be careful not to create even more uncertainty and instability. Actuaries worry that the mere promise of an eventual replacement won't be enough to sustain the individual health insurance market.

And the anti-cancer network is concerned that protection for people with pre-existing health conditions might be undermined or lost. Before the Affordable Care Act, it was common for insurers to deny coverage to people with a cancer diagnosis, even if successfully treated, or to charge them more. Also, uninsured people with cancer are more likely to be diagnosed late, when there's less chance of a cure.

"Replacement health care legislation that accompanies repeal needs to provide recognized patient protections that currently exist," Chris Hansen, the group's president, said in a statement.

Republicans say they remain resolute in their determination to repeal the law, but some also seem mindful of the potential political risks.

The basic plan under GOP consideration involves repealing the health law next year but delaying the effective date to allow Congress time to pass a replacement. That replacement presumably would do many of the things the Affordable Care Act does, such as subsidizing coverage and protecting people in poor health, but with less government regulation and without the unpopular "individual mandate" for most Americans to have coverage or risk fines. …

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