Patti Zehner: Trumpcare leads to bankruptcy |

Patti Zehner: Trumpcare leads to bankruptcy

Life has its surprises and not always good. Cancer, multiple sclerosis or a baby born prematurely can bankrupt a family. The Affordable Care Act that we have today places a ban on both annual and lifetime dollar limits for essential health expenses but not for non-essential expenses. Without this provision, hardworking American families are in danger of giving up their home, savings and ability to provide a college education for their children.

Our current law limits the total an individual will spend in a year for medical expenses. This is referred to as an out-of-pocket limit. This limit for 2017 was set as $7,150 for an individual and $14,300 for a family. After the limit is met, the health plan pays the full cost of essential expenses for the reminder of the year. Any future law needs to keep this provision.

Our current ACA law makes it illegal for policies to allow a lifetime cap. "Most people don’t realize that one bout of cancer, before the law, could cap out their insurance coverage, leaving them totally on the hook for all costs," says Ron Goldstein, president of CHOICE Administrators.

A cancer patient might pay as much as $750,000 for treatments each year. This means the patient would max out the coverage after a short time if lifetime caps are allowed. Prior to ACA 109 million people had policies with caps as low as a $1 to $5 million dollars (surveys from Kaiser Family Foundation).

Some percent of Americans will become victims of catastrophic health expenses. If lifetime caps are allowed, this leads to bankruptcy. Anyone who goes bankrupt because of health expenses will end up costing taxpayers in the form of Medicaid and other assistance programs. According to a Consumer Reports article, from 2010 to 2016 (after ACA was passed), such bankruptcies fell by 50 percent.

The current version of the ACHA allows states to change or opt out of essential health benefits regulations. This provision allows the AHCA to change what is now protected from lifetime caps. People normally buy health insurance to protect against catastrophic expenses. Annual and lifetime caps negate the central purpose of attaining health insurance.

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Could a catastrophic health event happen to you so that you would exceed an annual or lifetime limit? Call Senator Gardner at 970-245-9553 and Senator Bennet at 970-241-6631. Let them know the house version of ACHA is not acceptable, and you want no lifetime or annual caps.

Patti Zehner

Steamboat Springs

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