As Republicans continue to scramble to put in a replacement for the Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — one topic of debate has been coverage for people with preexisting conditions. But according to Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, “people who lead good lives” don’t have to worry about preexisting conditions and should not have to pay more for medical insurance.
“My understanding is that [the new proposal] will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool,” Brooks said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Monday. “That helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy. And right now, those are the people — who’ve done things the right way — that are seeing their costs skyrocketing.”
Brooks is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group of House Republicans that largely influenced the flop of the Republicans’ first health care bill. Many conservative Republicans wanted to fully repeal Obamacare’s “essential health benefits,” which include required coverage for people with chronic illnesses. In the latest bill floating around, Republicans are considering giving states an option to be waived out of offering essential benefits.
Preexisting conditions can include a wide variety of medical issues, such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, cerebral palsy, high cholesterol, fibromyalgia and sickle cell disease.
Anyone can be affected by a preexisting condition. In Brooks’ own congressional district, 51 percent of non-elderly residents live with one.
The percent of Americans living with preexisting conditions varies and depends largely on the definition of the phrase being used. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 1 in 2 non-elderly Americans live with a preexisting condition. (Using a more conservative estimate, the department reported that nearly one-fifth of non-elderly Americans live with some kind of preexisting condition.) A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found that just over one-quarter of U.S. adults under 65 live with a preexisting condition “that would likely make them uninsurable” without the ACA. But, in a separate Kaiser Family Foundation poll, “most people (53%) report that they or someone in their household has a pre-existing condition.”
“Older Americans between ages 55 and 64 are at particular risk: 48 to 86 percent of people in that age bracket have some type of pre-existing condition. And 15 to 30 percent of people in perfectly good health today are likely to develop a pre-existing condition over the next eight years, severely limiting their choices without the protections of the Affordable Care Act,” the HHS reported.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation data, a lot of Southern states have a higher percentage of people under 65 living with a preexisting condition. Among the highest reported percentages were West Virginia (36 percent), Mississippi (34 percent), Kentucky (33 percent), Alabama (33 percent), Arkansas (32 percent), Tennessee (32 percent) and Oklahoma (31 percent).
All of the aforementioned states voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Despite these demographics, more than half of Trump voters believe that a Trump health care plan would be beneficial for themselves and their families.
A different poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that the majority of Americans — 69 percent — support the Obamacare mandate that prevents companies from denying medical insurance due to preexisting conditions. Sixty percent of Trump voters reported supporting this measure.
And a Gallup poll conducted in April found that 55 percent of Americans support Obamacare — up from 42 percent in the days just following the election. Fifty-two percent of Americans in November said they believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage.
In response to Brooks, an emotional Jimmy Kimmel on Monday night opened up about his newborn son, who was born with a heart condition that required surgery.
“If your baby is going to die and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make,” Kimmel said. “I think that’s something that whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
Despite personal political affiliations, Kimmel said, “We need to make sure that the people who are supposed to represent us, people who are meeting about this right now in Washington, understand that very clearly.”
Others also responded on Twitter, sharing stories of their own preexisting conditions or their loved ones who are afflicted by one.
.@RepMoBrooks I have pre existing conditions because I was poisoned by toxic water in utero at Lejeune. Tell me more about “good lives.”
— William Bryant (@wcbryant) May 1, 2017
My husband had prostate cancer, but led a “clean life”. Should he die for it?
— BlondeResisterATX (@cateady53) May 2, 2017
@RepMoBrooks I have asthma since I was 12. My daughter has had it since birth. Please let me know what we did that was “bad” to get it.
— HaveWeMet (@Begin_Again4) May 2, 2017