WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans are offering to bail out a financially strapped program in the federal health overhaul, one that’s a lifeline for uninsured people with medical problems. Truce in the health care wars? Not!
The GOP bill, headed for a vote Wednesday in the House, would divert billions from another program under President Barack Obama’s signature law, a transfer Democrats say would undermine broader goals.
Caught in the middle are the so-called “uninsurables,” people like Susan Zurface, a small-town lawyer from Ohio with a recent diagnosis of leukemia, no health insurance and medical bills piling up. The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan was designed to offer them a path to private coverage.
“For people like me who can’t afford the insurance, it doesn’t matter where the Republicans want the money to come from or where the Democrats want the money to come from — it has to come from somewhere,” said Zurface, who lives in the rural southwestern Ohio community of Hillsboro. She has a slow-growing form of the blood cancer, and wants to start tackling it now when she is in her 40s and otherwise in good health.
“I’m starting to feel that sense of panic, because I have no idea where the money is going to come from to pay for this,” added Zurface, a solo practitioner who focuses on representing children caught in family breakups.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act was supposed to banish such fears forever by requiring health insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing medical problems. But those consumer protections don’t take effect until Jan. 1, along with a mandate that virtually every American must get coverage, expanding the insurance pool to try to keep costs in check.