Shaheen and Hassan: Focus on fixing Affordable Care Act, don’t repeal

Monitor staff
Published: 5/9/2017 1:03:12 AM

The U.S. Senate just started working on its version of the American Health Care Act, after the Republican health care bill was narrowly passed by Congress last week.

New Hampshire’s Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen said Monday it’s too early to tell what will be in the Senate bill. However, they made it clear they oppose any effort to repeal the existing health care law.

“I think the right approach is to go back to the Affordable Care Act, a system that we have in place,” Shaheen said. “To work across the aisle, and stop saying we’re going to repeal it and take away health care from tens of millions of Americans.”

That wish may not be likely. Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump have repeatedly said they want to see the ACA repealed and replaced.

The House vote last week was the first step in doing so, a few weeks after an earlier version of the bill failed to make it to the House floor.

The latest version passed by the House contains some controversial provisions, including one that would allow insurers to deny consumers coverage based on pre-existing conditions, as well as a “continuous coverage” clause that would penalize people who don’t maintain health insurance by letting insurers charge higher premiums.

Shaheen and Hassan focused on how the bill could impact New Hampshire’s opioid crisis, including by reversing a rule that insurers must cover mental health and substance misuse disorder services and rolling back expanded Medicaid, ending the program by 2020.

A recent report by drug treatment advocacy organization New Futures shows that after the ACA required insurers cover substance use disorder treatment, the number of claims skyrocketed from 63,000 in 2012 to 390,000 in 2014.

New Hampshire’s expanded Medicaid program covers about 60,000 people for services including mental health and substance misuse treatment.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the American Health Care Act would cause 14 million people to lose coverage through Medicaid by 2026. The bill has already earned swift rebukes from health providers in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Hospital Association called the legislation “deeply disappointing” and a “significant step backwards.”

On Monday, Shaheen and Hassan called on Granite Staters to share their stories of how they’ve been impacted by substance abuse, ahead of a Wednesday visit by U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Tom Price.

“I think the people of New Hampshire need to take this opportunity to talk to both Secretary Price and Gov. Sununu about their experiences, but in particular, how it is that they developed a substance use disorder,” Hassan said.

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