COVINGTON, Ky. -- Millions are concerned about the future of their health care as a new bill heads to the Senate.
The House voted in favor of the American Health Care Act Thursday. The move was viewed as a landmark accomplishment for the Trump administration, but the bill also sparked controversy among the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Association and millions of Americans who are concerned they could be charged higher premiums.
The American Health Care Act could allow insurers to charge more for sick people and those with a “pre-existing condition.” Under Obama’s Affordable Care Act, insurers were required to charge everyone the same premium.
The potential for high premiums worry Herb Schaffner.
Schaffner, a network engineer for C-Forward Information Technologies in Covington, is concerned the American Health Care Act won’t cover people with pre-existing conditions.
“Last year I was diagnosed with colon cancer and had to have it removed,” Schaffner said. “ I'm still not clear. I'm looking at additional scans, but I'm also looking at the possibility of lung cancer.”
A pre-existing condition is a "health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Brent Cooper, C-Forward president and CEO, provides health care for all of his employees, but it’s at a steep cost.
“If you add up our rent, our energy, our cars, our gas, all our expenses it doesn't touch what we spend on health care every month. It's crazy,” Cooper said.
Obamacare did not lower health care costs, according to Cooper, and he doesn’t think the newly passed bill will lower costs either.
“This is our 18th year in business. Every year we've been in business except for two our costs have gone up double digits,” Copper said. “One year 30 percent, one year 40 percent and one year we had an increase of 120 percent and that translated into real dollars.”
Despite the increase, C-Forward won’t stop offering health insurance, but Schaffner still worries if he’ll be able to cover his share of the cost.
“The possibility of not having health insurance … what, are we just supposed to fall off the face of the earth? That's how I see it,” Schaffner said. “Nobody cares about us. I didn't go out and put cancer in me ... just bad luck.”
Although an amendment to the bill specifies that insurers must provide some form of health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, it does not place limits on the rates they may charge those people. It would therefore still be possible for people with pre-existing conditions to be priced out of being able to afford health coverage.
Schaffner said he’s counting on the Trump administration to not let the bill go through.
“I need the job. I need the emotional support. I need the health insurance,” Schaffner said. “Without the health insurance I have no chance of fighting anything — and neither does anyone else that's sick out there and it's not just cancer. Any illnesses.”
Senate leaders say they expect major changes to the House-passed bill, so the end result may be very different than today’s version of legislation.