For Some, Senate Healthcare Bill Looks Like ‘Life or Death’

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Cancer survivor Rusty Williams credits the Affordable Care Act with saving his life.

Dan Heyman

Cancer survivor Rusty Williams credits the Affordable Care Act with saving his life.

Folks who got healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act are closely watching as the new healthcare bill is drafted in the Senate – including some who say Obamacare saved their lives. 

The Senate “repeal and replace” legislation is still being negotiated behind closed doors, although observers say it will closely resemble the bill that passed the House. That’s disturbing to cancer survivor Russell Williams. After he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, Williams said he struggled to get the insurance he needed to have surgery and then, what he called “aggressive chemo.” 

He said it was a close call.

“One gentleman looked at me and his words were, ‘So you want insurance with a late-stage cancer diagnosis? Good luck with that,'” Williams recalled. “Had the Obama Administration not pushed and made the Affordable Care Act happen, I’d be dead.”

Supporters of the Senate bill say patients with pre-existing conditions would still be covered. But other observers have warned that their premiums would go up so much, they’d likely lose coverage anyway.

What the proposed law may look like

Edwin Park, vice president for health policy with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said the little information being leaked about the Senate bill indicates it generally resembles the one that passed the House. He said both would make similarly steep funding cuts, and would reduce access in much the same way. 

He predicts the Senate bill’s timeline will be slower, but would have the same impact.

“The Senate is making tweaks, but those changes, you know, are relatively minor in the greater scheme of things, and still result with the same outcome as the House bill,” Park said.

Supporters have argued that reductions in funding are needed to keep the programs viable. But Park pointed out that both bills include tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, the drug companies and others.

“Medicaid cuts, as well as cuts to the subsidies, pay for the tax cuts that overwhelmingly go to high-income folks and the health industry,” he observed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants to pass the Senate version by the end of the month.

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