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May 17, 2017
Nikita Hendrix, center (in wheelchair), waits to be treated for a pressure sore on his foot, during a visit to the emergency room at Long Beach Memorial Hospital on August 13, 2014.  In one of the first signs of the effects of Obamacare, most hospitals in Los Angeles County had an increase in visits to their emergency departments in the first part of 2014.
Nikita Hendrix, center (in wheelchair), waits to be treated for a pressure sore on his foot, during a visit to the emergency room at Long Beach Memorial Hospital on August 13, 2014. In one of the first signs of the effects of Obamacare, most hospitals in Los Angeles County had an increase in visits to their emergency departments in the first part of 2014.
Mel Melcon—LA Times via Getty Images

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) could lead to much higher health insurance premiums for more than six million Americans with pre-existing conditions, according to a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

That Obamacare replacement bill, which narrowly passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, would allow states to apply for a waiver from the Obamacare provision prohibiting medical underwriting. Under that practice, insurers base premiums on consumers’ health status. Before Obamacare was fully implemented in 2014, medical underwriting often led to people with pre-existing conditions being charged more–or denied coverage outright–on the individual market.

The AHCA would shield people from medical underwriting if they maintain “continuous coverage,” which the bill defines as not having a gap in coverage of 63 or more consecutive days in the prior year. But according to the Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, 6.3 million Americans with serious pre-existing conditions had at least a two-month coverage gap in 2015.

These people have conditions such as cancer and diabetes that would have likely led to them being declined coverage on the individual market before 2014.

The AHCA wouldn’t allow these people to be denied coverage, but they could be charged prohibitively high premiums for up to a year in states that apply for a waiver. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see premiums of three, four or five times what a healthy person would pay, says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation and one of the report’s authors.

“These are the ones insurers don’t want,” Pollitz says. These sicker patients’ needs are such that insurers know they’ll lose money on these people regardless of what the companies charge in premiums, Pollitz says, so the insurance companies would set premiums so high that these individuals couldn’t afford coverage in the first place.

The Senate is now working on its own health care bill, and the version that emerges could make significant changes to the version that passed in the House. Experts expect the Senate’s process to take months.

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Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

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Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

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