Some low-income Mississippians enrolled in the Affordable Care Act could find themselves paying more for health care coverage under a proposed plan to replace the program. The measure is still being hammered out in Washington.
Rita Moore of Jackson is 62-years old. She has spinal arthritis and a heart rhythm problem. When she shopped for health care coverage this year she found the Affordable Care Act, through healthcare.gov was the best deal. She pays $79 per month and her co-pay for brand name drugs is $5, generics are $1.
"If it wasn't for the benefits I receive under Obamacare for the medication the medical bills would be too high," said Moore.
Moore knows some don't like the plan because people who don't buy health coverage pay a penalty. But she's grateful to have it. The Republican-sponsored bill to replace the Affordable Care Act gets rid of the individual and employer mandates. Therese Hanna is with the Mississippi Center for Health Policy. She's reviewed the proposed American Health Care Act and says some items Mississippians like remain intact.
"The requirement that insurance companies allow children to stay on their parent's plan until age 26, that stays in place. The requirement that you can't exclude someone because of a pre-existing condition, that stays in place," said Hanna.
Also, insurance companies can't put a limit on lifetime coverage. But the subsidies, referred to as tax credits, do change. Under the new plan, subsidies are based on age instead of income.
"Someone who's young, 25, would get like a $2,000 tax credit to buy health insurance. Someone who is older like 60 years of age, would get a $4,000 tax credit," said Hanna.
Hanna says the new subsidies are designed to encourage younger people to sign-up. The Affordable Care Act wasn't able to attract enough younger people to offset the costs of covering older, sicker adults. Less than 70,000 Mississippians are enrolled in healthcare.gov. Hanna says about 95 percent receive a subsidy. Based on the Congressional Budget Office's report, Hanna says low-income and older Mississippians could see their premiums rise. That concerns Kimberly Campbell who is with Mississippi AARP.
"Many times now with the Medicare and the affordable healthcare plans that they have now they have to make decisions between drug costs sometimes and groceries," said Campbell.
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says portions of the bill are constantly being rewritten before Congress takes up the measure Thursday. He says an increase in subsidies may be off the table.
"The proposals that are before Congress today, as we speak, would keep payments about the same or costs for someone over 50 and someone of 30 years of age, about the same as they are today," said Chaney.
Chaney says the biggest change could be to the Medicaid program. The bill could allow states to make changes to eligibility or create a work requirement. Chaney says it's difficult to say what the American Health Care Act will contain until it's finalized. He added the bill won't increase competition among insurers in Mississippi. Chaney says Humana, which is one of two carriers in the state, will pull out at the end of the year. The proposed bill will not impact employer coverage unless it was provided because of the Affordable Care Act mandate.