Obamacare replacement

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP Photo

With the failure of the latest Republican effort to replace "Obamacare," attention is turning once again to a stalled bipartisan effort to shore up the healthcare law.

That means Washington state's senior U.S. senator, Patty Murray, is back in the spotlight. 

The health care legislation under discussion in the Senate could allow states to remove some of the Affordable Care Act's consumer protections — including the prohibition that keeps insurers from limiting how much they'll pay for medically needy, expensive patients. Clara Hardy's parents worry about the Senate bill for just this reason.

We've received hundreds of responses to our callout for questions about the Senate Republicans' proposed overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this week, we answered questions about continued coverage for serious health conditions and insurance premiums for older adults. Today, we begin with a question from a young adult who says he's excited about the potential repeal of Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act isn't perfect. Even proponents of the law would agree with that.

In many parts of the country, there is only one insurer in the individual markets — and in a few, there are zero. Premiums have spiked, sending some people on the insurance exchanges hunting for new plans.

One provision of the Senate's health care bill stands to be quite popular: the Better Care Reconciliation Act would eliminate the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. That would be repealed immediately.

Another would likely please the Republican base: defunding Planned Parenthood for a year. Those funds would disappear right away, too.

Another would threaten health care coverage for millions of Americans: a rollback to the Medicaid expansion. That change wouldn't start until 2021.

When Senate Republican leaders delayed the vote on their bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was quick to not declare victory.

"We're not resting on any laurels, nor do we feel any sense yet of accomplishment," Schumer said at his weekly press conference, shortly after the surprise GOP decision to punt on a vote. "Other than we are making progress, because the American people are listening to our arguments."

In late May, several senators went to the floor of the Senate to talk about people in their states who are affected by the opioid crisis. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., talked about Chelsea Carter.

"She told me her drug habit began when she was 12 years old," said Capito.

Last week, a jury awarded a Pennsylvania man $620,000 for pain and suffering in a medical malpractice lawsuit he filed against a surgeon who mistakenly removed his healthy testicle, leaving the painful, atrophied one intact.

However, if a bill before the House of Representatives passes, the maximum he would be able to receive for such "non-economic" damages would be $250,000.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET

Americans broadly disapprove of the Senate GOP's health care bill, and they're unhappy with how Republicans are handling the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office weighed in on the Senate health care bill on Monday, saying that 22 million people would lose health coverage in the next 10 years under the Senate's plan. Of those, 15 million would lose Medicaid coverage. It's projected to lower the deficit by billions over 10 years, and also cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Senate Republicans have little margin for error as they prepare for a vote this coming week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Some lawmakers are already raising concerns that the bill could aggravate the problem of healthy people going without insurance, driving up costs for everyone else.

Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare. The long-awaited plan marks a big step toward achieving one of the Republican Party's major goals.

Updated at 6 p.m. ET June 23

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller on Friday became the latest GOP lawmaker to voice concerns about the Senate health care bill — a development that further complicates Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

"I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans," Heller said at a news conference back in Nevada.

Updated at 2:32 p.m. ET

Senate Republicans unveiled their long-awaited health care overhaul proposal on Thursday. The Senate bill, called the "Better Care Reconciliation Act," would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The broad outlines of it look a lot like the House bill, the American Health Care Act, which was passed in May.

The Senate vote on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is, according to conventional wisdom, one week away.

And we still don't know what's in the bill.

Not having concrete information is deeply uncomfortable for a journalist like me.

Broken teeth are all too often a punchline in conversations about poor people in rural places. But for Heather Wallace, dental problems are anything but funny.

"Basically it's just like a nerve pain. Your whole body locks up; you have to stop for a second to try to breathe," she said. "And sometimes if it hurts bad enough, you might cry."

For years, says Corinne Bobbie, shopping in Arizona for a health plan for her little girl went like this:

" 'Sorry, we're not covering that kid,' " Bobbie recalls insurers telling her. " 'She's a liability.' "

On the day I visit the family at their home in a suburb north of Phoenix, 8-year-old Sophia bounces on a trampoline in the backyard. It's difficult to tell she has a complex congenital heart condition and has undergone multiple surgeries.

Republicans are running way behind schedule.

In the dream scenario outlined by party leaders back in January, President Trump would have signed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, months ago. By early June, Republicans were supposed to be in the thick of overhauling the tax code.

Health care groups that represent doctors and patients are warning members of Congress that the House Republicans' plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act would hurt people who need insurance most.

The revised Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will leave 23 million more people uninsured in 2026 than if that act, also known as Obamacare, were to remain in place. The GOP bill would also reduce the deficit by $119 billion over 10 years.

Would the House Republican health care bill impact insurance provided by employers? And why don't people without insurance just go to an emergency room for regular care? Here are answers to those and other recent questions from readers.

Will employer-based health care be affected by the new Republican plan?

As the GOP health bill moves to the U.S. Senate, many consumers and lawmakers worry that people who have pre-existing conditions won't be able to find affordable health coverage if the bill becomes law.

There are a number of strategies under consideration, but one option touted by House Republicans borrows an idea that Maine used several years ago. It's called an invisible high-risk pool — "invisible" because people in Maine didn't even know when they were in it.

In the spring of my first-year of law school, while taking an exam, I had a grand mal seizure — the type of seizures people see in the movies with spasms on the floor. My memory is fuzzy from that time. I remember a few of my classmates offering me water afterward. I was told that many stopped taking the exam to make sure that I didn't injure myself while having a seizure, sitting in my chair.

Many Democrats are hoping the GOP health care bill that narrowly passed the U.S. House of Representatives is going to push political momentum their way, and result in big gains in the 2018 midterm elections. A special election next week in Montana may be an early test for this theory.

GOP Health Bill Penalizes Patients Who Let Insurance Lapse

May 16, 2017

Before he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2015, Anthony Kinsey often went without health insurance. He is a contract lawyer working for staffing agencies on short-term projects in the Washington, D.C., area and sometimes the 90-day waiting period for coverage through a staffing agency proved longer than the duration of his project — if health coverage was offered at all.

The Senate is negotiating its own legislation to repeal and replace much of the Affordable Care Act in secret talks with senators hand-picked by party leaders and with no plans for committee hearings to publicly vet the bill.

"I am encouraged by what we are seeing in the Senate. We're seeing senators leading," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, one of the 13 Republicans involved in the private talks. "We're seeing senators working together in good faith. We're not seeing senators throwing rocks at each other, either in private or in the press."

At a town hall meeting in Willingboro, N.J., on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur was confronted by angry constituents who demanded to know how the Republican health care bill that he helped write would affect rape victims.

A young man named Joseph said he understood that the bill would allow insurance companies to deem rape a pre-existing condition and deny coverage to people who have been raped.

If the giant inflatable Trump chicken outside New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur's town hall didn't make it clear — or the group of people singing health care-themed protest songs; or the Affordable Care Act cemetery; or even the plane circling overhead trailing an anti-MacArthur message — an early moment in the Republican's constituent town hall provided a sign this was going to be a long, contentious night.

That's when several people in the Willingboro, N.J., crowd started to boo and jeer when MacArthur talked about his daughter, Grace, who died at age 11.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are back in their home districts for a recess this week. After seeing the reception some of their colleagues got in previous town hall-style meetings following the election of Donald Trump, most House Republicans are skipping them.

But a handful are diving in headfirst.

On Monday night, a few days after voting in favor of the House bill to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Elise Stefanik, 32, from Northern New York, held a town hall at a public television station.

Ryan Lennon Fines seems like a typical 2-year-old. He and his parents, Scott Fines and Brianna Lennon, flip through a picture book of emergency vehicles. Ryan is looking for the motorcycle, but a photo of an airplane catches his dad's eye.

"That's an air ambulance," Fines tells him. "You've been on one of those."

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