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Society Releases Statement on American Health Care Act

March 17, 2017

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has released a statement on the American Health Care Act, the replacement plan for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) released by Congress on March 6. 

The statement:

Access to affordable, quality healthcare and health insurance coverage is essential for people with multiple sclerosis to live their best lives. An effective health insurance system must include the following components: accessibility, affordability, comprehensive benefits, transparency, and quality and value. 

The Affordable Care Act and our nation’s health insurance system are not perfect. Improvements are certainly needed so that people can get the care and treatments they need. But, significant changes to the health coverage system that impact people's lives — such as those presented by the American Health Care Act — require deliberate and extensive evaluation. We need continued progress and urge Congress to incorporate the input of all who would be impacted by such changes.   

While the American Health Care Act maintains the principles of some vital patient protections — like access for people with pre-existing conditions — under this legislation, people with MS would not have affordable, quality healthcare or coverage. Provisions in this legislation threaten access to coverage and care for people living with chronic conditions, disabilities and complex needs — particularly those who are lower income and most in need of support. For these reasons, the National MS Society opposes the American Health Care Act. 

Under the American Health Care Act, 14 million people would lose coverage next year, increasing to 24 million uninsured by 2026 according to the Congressional Budget Office. Many of the projected losses in coverage would be due to proposed changes decimating Medicaid — our nation’s health coverage safety net — a program relied on by 10 million people with disabilities. Phasing out Medicaid expansion and changing Medicaid’s financing structure to a per capita cap would reduce funding by $370 billion to states over 10 years, forcing states to make cuts to service and/or populations.

Access to coverage is meaningless unless people can afford both the coverage and the comprehensive healthcare services they need under the coverage. Americans should not face financial devastation, or be forced to make tough choices between health care and critical needs such as housing or food, because the cost of sufficient coverage is out-of-reach. People with chronic conditions need protections like premium assistance, annual out-of-pocket caps, no lifetime caps, and out-of-pocket costs spread throughout a plan year. The American Health Care Act preserves some of these, but the legislation falls short of the protections people with chronic conditions need. 

It is critical that people with the fewest resources are able to afford coverage. This is not accomplished under the American Health Care Act. For example, the legislation replaces income-based tax credits with a flat tax credit adjusted for age; credits should be inversely related to income to enable those with the least means to afford coverage. The bill also repeals cost-sharing subsidies, instead increasing reliance on Health Savings Accounts (which are best suited for healthy individuals with higher incomes not people with MS and others with complex needs and high cost conditions).

The National MS Society urges Congress to oppose the American Health Care Act and work with stakeholders to develop legislation that moves our nation’s health insurance system forward — not backward.

Learn more about access to affordable, quality health insurance coverage. 

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, with at least two to three times more women than men being diagnosed with the disease. MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide.

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