Earlier today, the U.S. Senate released the text of its health care reform bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), and reports indicate a Senate vote is likely next week. The Foundation issued the following statement in response:
“The Better Care Reconciliation Act is unacceptable for people with cystic fibrosis. If passed, this legislation would jeopardize our community's ability to access life-saving treatments and care. The proposal for Medicaid is particularly concerning, as it goes even further than the American Health Care Act in jeopardizing access to treatments and care by drastically cutting funding for this critical program. We implore senators to think about the people at the heart of this legislation and oppose this bill.
As written, the BCRA would:
- Drastically cut funding to Medicaid, a critical source of coverage for one half of children and one third of adults living with CF.
- End Medicaid expansion, causing millions of people to lose vital health coverage.
- Remove protections against annual and lifetime caps, including for the millions of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance.
- Allow states to waive the guarantee of essential health benefits, which would segment the market into plans for sick people and plans for healthy people, driving up the cost of plans for people with serious health care needs.
- Give some people less financial assistance to purchase coverage, potentially putting adequate health care coverage financially out of reach for them.
- Open the door for states to bring back high-risk pools, which put people with serious health conditions into a separate insurance market and have been shown to result in higher premiums, longer waiting periods, and stricter enrollment caps.
- Allow health plans to cover a lower share of patients' medical expenses, which means higher out-of-pocket costs for individuals.
- Provide insufficient financial resources to incentivize insurance companies to participate in the individual marketplace and to keep premiums down.
- Establish a six-month lockout period for people who let their insurance lapse for more than 63 days, which could prevent people from accessing vital medications or care for months at a time.
The Senate bill does maintain some protections for people with pre-existing conditions, for example, insurance companies would still be prohibited from denying health insurance, charging higher premiums, or carving out benefits based on health status. However, removing protections against annual and lifetime caps and other provisions of the bill would render these protections meaningless because people with CF would often be left with inadequate and unaffordable coverage options.
The bill does uphold the policy that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance plan until age 26.
From the very beginning of this process, we have been clear that any legislation must protect the needs of individuals with cystic fibrosis and their ability to get adequate, affordable health insurance. The BCRA fails to ensure that people with the disease -- regardless of income, employment, health status, or geographic location -- can get the specialized care they need to live longer, healthier lives.”