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Rauner cites ‘deep concern’ about GOP American Health Care Act

On Thursday, Gov. Bruce Rauner said the health care bill "continues to be of deep concern" to his administration. "Recent changes did not address fundamental concerns about the bill's impact on the 650,000 individuals that are part of our Medicaid expansion population, nor have those changes eased the concerns of the 350,000 people in the individual market who are dealing with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices," he said in a statement. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

While Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner called the passage of the American Health Care Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday “of deep concern,” policy makers and health care groups in Illinois are sounding the alarm on changes they say would eliminate coverage for hundreds of thousands of people who rely on Medicaid and private health insurance plans.

Specifics are still murky — and the bill must still clear the U.S. Senate — but it could impact a large swath of Medicaid recipients, individuals who buy their own plans and Illinois residents who get insurance from their employers.

The measure passed without a complete analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

But according to a March analysis of the bill by U.S. Sen Dick Durbin’s office — which doesn’t include an analysis of two recent amendments — 311,000 Illinoisans with private health insurance and 170,000 with Medicaid coverage would lose coverage if the bill were to go into effect next year. Durbin’s report was compiled by the Congressional Budget Office and various government and hospital entities.

There are currently more than 3 million Illinoisans who depend on Medicaid, including 1.5 million children, more than 300,000 seniors and people with disabilities.

The federal government matches state money for Medicaid recipients. The bill would instead cap the amount recipients can get, or get them block grants. The cut would force the state to make changes to save the program — amid the state’s dire financial straits.

The bill also repeals several taxes that helped pay for the Affordable Care Act, including those for Americans with larger incomes and health insurers.

Among the other major changes in Illinois would be an increase in premiums for “near seniors” between the ages of 50 and 64. It would also reduce tax credits for seniors and could see statewide changes in essential benefits and pre-existing conditions. It would also defund Planned Parenthood for one year by not allowing Medicaid recipients to receive services at the group’s health care centers.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois on Thursday called the measure “the worst bill for women’s health in a generation.” CEO Jennifer Welch said it would block over 20,000 patients in Illinois who are covered by Medicaid from accessing birth control, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted infections.

The bill would also end a requirement to cover substance abuse disorder treatment, according to the analysis.

And it would give states the option of getting waivers for essential benefits and pre-existing conditions. In turn, multi-state companies can choose to enact benefits from whichever state they choose.

Durbin’s analysis also found the repeal would affect more than 2 million who rely on Medicare — since the bill cuts billions from Medicare. The analysis found the cuts could make Medicare insolvent four years sooner than expected.

On Thursday, Rauner said the bill “continues to be of deep concern” to his administration.

“Recent changes did not address fundamental concerns about the bill’s impact on the 650,000 individuals that are part of our Medicaid expansion population, nor have those changes eased the concerns of the 350,000 people in the individual market who are dealing with skyrocketing premiums and fewer choices,” Rauner said in a statement. “We will continue to voice our concerns as the law moves to the Senate.

Still Rauner noted a sentiment popular with members of Congress who voted for the measure — the perceived failures of the Affordable Care Act: “The Affordable Care Act is a seriously flawed law that should be changed. Difficult as the task has proven, we are hopeful that our federal lawmakers will continue to work hard to get this right for the people of Illinois and our nation.”