Tuesday March 21, 2017

'I really think people will die': Americans fear losing health care under Trump's plan

The Republicans' proposed Obamacare replacement will cut Medicare funding and increase health insurance premiums, leaving millions of Americans without health-care access.

The Republicans' proposed Obamacare replacement will cut Medicare funding and increase health insurance premiums, leaving millions of Americans without health-care access. (Nate Chute/Reuters)

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Republicans are planning a vote for March 23, in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal and replace Obamacare – seven years to the day after Obamacare was signed into law. 

The Congressional Budget Office estimates 14 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage by next year under the Republican plan.

According to the Obama administration, its Affordable Care Act provided health insurance to 20 million Americans who didn't have it before.

But critics say Obamacare gives Americans too little choice in their health-care plans and providers, and ultimately drives up cost. 

Mark Jenkins, a retired priest in Michigan, is not yet old enough to qualify for insurance under Medicare, which provides it to seniors. He pays for a plan under the Affordable Care Act. 

Mark Jenkins

Retired priest Mark Jenkins has health insurance under Obamacare but says he'll likely lose it under Trump's plan. (Courtesy of Mark Jenkins)

Jenkins tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti, he's done the math and figures the Republican proposal would see his insurance bill jump much higher. 

"They say they don't want to pull the rug out from underneath us, but I don't know how else you could define it," he says.

"I think that they're reckless, and I think that they're rushed," Jenkins says of politicians in Congress pressing ahead with health-care changes.

"People are going to find themselves without care. Lower-income people are already having more health problems than upper-income people because they can't afford to eat as well," he explains.

"I don't like to exaggerate, but I really think people will die."

Californian Charis Hill has ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic form of arthritis that causes inflammation of joints in the spine. It can become debilitating and, if left untreated, can result in vertebrae in the spine fusing together.

"It's scary to have this disease, and then have to face this possible need to fight even harder for my health care," Hill tells Tremonti.

The treatments she requires are very expensive — thousands of dollars for each infusion. To pay for those treatments, she has health insurance under Medicaid, the program that provides insurance to low-income Americans.

Health Care Overhaul

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act demonstrated, Jan. 31, 2017, against a bill at the state level that would chip away at Obamacare. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

Medicaid was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, raising the income level at which recipients can qualify. The new plan would see funding to states for the program cut.

Hill believes she would still qualify for Medicaid under the new plan. But as she explains, qualifying for coverage and accessing care aren't the same thing.

"If states have less funding for the same amount of people who are still enrolled in Medicaid, then states have to decide where that funding goes, what treatments are seen as an option for people," she says.

"And since I have a very expensive treatment ... thousands and thousands of dollars of treatment [every] eight weeks — the state could decide that that's not necessary for me."

Listen to the full segment at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sam Colbert.