GOP health plan could be costly for those with coverage gaps

As a thyroid cancer survivor battling nerve damage and other complications, Lisa Dammert was in such dire financial straits in 2014 that she and her husband did the unthinkable: They let their health insurance lapse for a while.

If the Dammerts and some of the millions of other Americans like them do that under the Republican health care plan now making its way through Congress, they could end up paying a heavy price.

Under the bill, people who go without insurance for even just a couple of months — whether because of a job loss, a divorce, a serious illness that leaves them unable to work, or some other reason — could face sharply higher premiums if they try to sign up again for coverage, especially if they have a pre-existing condition. Some might find themselves priced out of the market.

Dammert, who lives in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, said her husband has since gotten a job that provides health insurance for the family, but she knows hard times could come again. She is watching the fate of the Republican bill.

“It scares me to death,” she said.

The bill, which passed the House but is certain to be amended in the Senate, represents the GOP’s effort to deliver on its promise to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a law critics say has driven up insurance costs and is unsustainable.

The bill requires insurers to raise premiums 30 percent for anyone seeking to buy a policy on the individual market who had a lapse in coverage of 63 days or more in the previous year.

The legislation also enables states to obtain a waiver that would allow insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions if they had a gap in coverage. Under the current law, the sick and the healthy must be charged the same.

Because of those gap-in-coverage rules, some people might be unable to find affordable insurance, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The higher premiums…

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