Idaho Health Care Coalition: Nearly 40 Percent of Idahoans Have Pre-Existing Conditions 

click to enlarge KELSEY HAWES
  • Kelsey Hawes
While the Capitol Hill debate over President Donald Trump's latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare heat up, members of Close the Gap Idaho say health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of Idahoans twists in the wind as lawmakers consider the fate of pre-existing conditions or lifetime limits on health benefits.

"There were 662,319 Idahoans with pre-existing conditions prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)," Close the Gap Idaho stated in a news release, pointing to new data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Close the Gap, a coalition of consumer, provider and health care advocacy groups, says it's worried about newly proposed amendments that would allow states to decide whether or not to require insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. Other proposals would allow insurers to impose annual and lifetime limits on coverage and remove the "community rating" requirement for regulating insurance pricing. Prior to the "community rating" requirement, the coalition says, insurers were allowed to charge people with pre-existing conditions more—putting the cost of insurance out of reach for some patients who need it the most.

click to enlarge Demonstrators gathered recently at the Idaho Statehouse to send a message that they want their health care coverage to remain intact. - GEORGE PRENTICE
  • George Prentice
  • Demonstrators gathered recently at the Idaho Statehouse to send a message that they want their health care coverage to remain intact.
"For example, this new proposal in Congress would be detrimental to cancer patients and survivors," said Luke Cavener, government relations director for the Idaho Cancer Action Network, an advocacy arm of the American Cancer Society. "By allowing states to waive patient protections we have under the current law, cancer patients would have no guarantee that chemotherapy, prescription drugs, prevention services or hospitalization would be covered."

The coalition says it is mounting an information campaign to urge more Gem State residents to let Idaho's congressional delegation know how they feel about the debate. Close the Gap already gave high marks to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) for expressing a "strong commitment to protecting pre-existing conditions."

"Simpson introduced a piece of legislation that would preserve protections for Idahoans with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other health issues," said Lauren Necochea, director of Idaho Voices for Children. " We encourage the rest of Idaho's delegation to follow Congressman Simpson's lead."
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