GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Republican-led effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] is now in the hands of the Senate, who are expected to make changes to the bill that passed the House of Representatives.
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R - Wisconsin), voted in favor of the American Health Care Act. He joined us live on Action 2 News This Morning to answer questions from constituents. Watch the full interview above.
Videos from town hall meetings held by House members who voted in favor of the American Health Care Act show lawmakers facing questions from constituents concerned about how the bill changes coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
The American Health Care Act makes sure everyone qualifies for insurance— but differs from "Obamacare" because it does not require companies charge the same premiums for people with pre-existing conditions.
Under the American Health Care Act, states will have a say in what premiums will be for people with pre-existing conditions. That means people with those conditions could be placed in "high-risk pools."
High-risk pools do cost more than individual insurance, because people have conditions that are considered "uninsurable," according to the National Association of Health Underwriters.
The House bill sets aside $8 billion for care of people with pre-existing conditions. But some critics have said that's not enough.
VIEWER QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
Jane Benson, Suamico: "They're going to shunt off people with pre-existing conditions into a separate pool, but they're not going to fund it in a sustainable way, so that there's enough money in the states to support the people that need help with pre-existing conditions"
Gallagher: "We have gone to great lengths to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions are covered. It is explicitly written into the bill in section 136B. It says that it illegal for any insurance provider to deny someone coverage based on pre-existing conditions, that is the standard in law.
"As for sustainable funding, I guess maybe where we might have a disagreement is the current system, in my view, is unsustainable. I think all the evidence suggests that. Average family premiums going up by $5000. Premiums are ready to go up 40 percent more in the next go around.
"The Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner sat down with me and said their projections show that the individual market in our corner of Wisconsin is going to collapse entirely.
"So if you're on the individual market and have a pre-existing condition, you're not going to have an option. So doing nothing is not an option.
"I would say that even in the scenario in which a state takes the waiver that it would allow it to design a more flexible or a different option for covering pre-existing conditions, like a high insurance risk pool like we had in Wisconsin that worked quite well for us, or an invisible risk pool, we've set up not $8 billion, but an additional $130 billion to devote to stabilizing premiums for those with pre-existing conditions.
"Even in that scenario where a state applies for a waiver, they have to prove how they're going to cover those people with pre-existing conditions.
"The only scenario in which someone with pre-existing conditions or anyone--it applies to anyone--could be charged a higher premium is if they don't maintain continuous coverage for 63 days or more."
Gallagher: "I don't think Congress should ever pass something that sets a certain standard for everyone else and a separate standard for ourself. That's why the vote we took immediately before this vote was to ensure that we were no way exempted from this plan."
"We see in instances in the past where Congress tries to set up a double standard--a better standard for itself. Right now I myself am on Obamacare. I think it's important that anything Congress thinks is good enough for the rest of America, it applies to itself absolutely 100 percent."
ON TOWN HALLS
A group from Northeast Wisconsin is calling on Rep. Gallagher to meet with them for a town hall-style meeting later this month when Congress is in recess. Organizers delivered a letter Monday to Gallagher's office in Appleton, inviting him to a meeting at the Brown County Library on May 30.
Several of our Facebook fans wanted to us to ask if he plans on attending in-person town hall events with local constituents.
Gallagher told us he's held listening sessions with people on Medicaid and with pre-existing conditions, held Coffee with your Congressman events, and been part of telephone town halls.
Gallagher: "I'm looking for forums where we can engage in a civil way and have an honest discussion and dialogue. I know there are people who are trying to do town halls that devolve into theater and trying to deliberately provoke people into getting something on camera."
Rep. Gallagher says he cannot attend the May 30 town hall because he will be in Asia.