Sen. Collins’ watered-down health care proposal gains little support

Sen. Collins’ watered-down health care proposal gains little support

At a press conference with Republican colleague Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana yesterday, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced an Affordable Care Act replacement proposal that would repeal major portions of the Act, leaving it to individual states to regulate their insurance markets. States could choose to continue the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid coverage, or opt for a more market-driven approach that would replace insurance subsidies and Medicaid payments from the federal government with deposits in individual health savings accounts (HSAs).

The proposal was panned by Democrats, with Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer calling it “an empty facade that would create chaos – not care – for millions of Americans.” It is also unlikely to gain support from the bulk of congressional Republicans, who support more fully repealing Obamacare.

While Collins and Cassidy’s proposal would keep some patient protections, including allowing children to stay on their parents plans until the age of 26, it would repeal or weaken others. It only guarantees coverage of pre-existing conditions for those who maintain coverage for 12 months preceding enrollment, with others receiving a very limited benefit package or facing a new, expensive enrollment penalty.

The proposal would also repeal “essential health benefit” requirements mandated by the ACA, including for maternity care. In those states that don’t reinstate this protection, a majority of plans would likely no longer cover care for new mothers.

“The Patient Freedom Act of 2017 will help ensure that more Americans have access to affordable health care that improves choice and helps restrain costs,” said Collins in a press release. “With this legislation, we are placing a specific replacement proposal on the table for our colleagues to coalesce around, debate, and refine so that our efforts can move forward with no gap in coverage for those relying on the current system.”

Collins reiterated her support for repealing the Affordable Care Act before any replacement is in place, but said she believed a majority of her colleagues would support passing an alternative “at about the same time or shortly thereafter.”

“While I have a great deal of respect for Senators Collins and Cassidy, their proposal today illustrates the dilemma both they and Republicans are in,” said Schumer. “Under their proposal – which, if it is the Republican replacement plan, is a far cry from the full replacement plan they have promised for years – millions of Americans would be kicked off their plans, out-of-pocket costs and deductibles for consumers would skyrocket, employer-based coverage for working families would be disrupted, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, would be gutted. All while the wealthiest few get a tax cut. It is nearly impossible to keep the benefits of the Affordable Care Act without keeping the whole thing.”

Schumer’s reference to a tax cut for the wealthy appears to be based on the potential under Collins and Cassidy’s plan for HSAs to be used as tax shelters for high-income individuals who already have more comprehensive insurance.

Maine health care advocates said they were interested to learn more about Collins’ plans, but were adamant that she shouldn’t vote to gut Obamacare without first passing a real replacement.

“The Cassidy-Collins bill does nothing to prevent the chaos that will take place if this repeal is passed,” said Emily Brostek, executive director of Consumers for Affordable Health Care. “Mainers deserve a plan that protects high-quality, affordable care for those who depend on our rural hospitals, our small business owners, and so many others who now have health care for the first time. We need Congress to pass a real plan that protects high-quality, affordable care before they rip apart the current system.”

Contact Senator Collins Here


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