Savannah mother says ACA failed her son, GOP bill doesn’t look promising

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A Savannah mother says her son has been failed by the existing health care system and she does not believe the new health care bill proposed by the Trump Administration will help.

When the Affordable Care Act went into effect under the Obama Administration, states were supposed to expand their Medicaid programs.  But when some states like Georgia refused, that left a gap of uninsured folks who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to be able to afford individual coverage.

"It's an impossible situation, you know, on limited incomes," said Judy Harris.

Harris says her 53-year-old son, Bill Harris, found out two weeks ago he has lung cancer and has been in the hospital ever since. She says he was showing symptoms for months but refused to go to the doctor because he didn't have insurance.

He's been on disability for 15 years. When Georgia didn't expand Medicaid when the ACA was implemented, he became one of the 300,000 Georgians who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid or any financial aid within the marketplace but he also didn't make enough to buy his own insurance.

"I looked at deductibles when I was applying, $6,000 to $10,000," said Harris.

A daunting number at the time. Now, only a fraction of his mounting medical bills.

"Several CAT scans, PET/CT scans, an MRI of his brain. All kind of tests," Harris said.

Not to mention all the radiation and chemo. She's not only discouraged by the existing system but also the proposed changes lawmakers are suggesting in the new American Health Care Act.  According to local experts, there's nothing in the current proposal that would help folks like Bill Harris.

"But right now, there's no indication that we are going in that direction?"

"That's possible, yes," replied Gary Oetgen, the owner of Gary Oetgen Insurance agency.

A frustrating reality for a family who desperately wants to be able to afford care but can't and is forced to depend on indigent care.

"I think the Democrats and Republicans need to get together and not do a separate bill but get together and think about the people in this country," Harris said.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 19 states still have not expanded Medicaid including Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. And like we said, there's nothing in this new legislation that would help folks who fall into this coverage gap.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, 24 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2026 under the American Health Care Act. That includes 14 million by next year alone.

The CBO also warns that premiums would rise over the next two years if this Health Care Act becomes law and it would reduce deficits by $337 billion between 2017 and 2026.

A local health insurance expert says those who have group insurance - like through an employer - shouldn't be as worried as folks with individual plans.

Oetgen says the new proposal would impact the way premiums are calculated. They would no longer be based on income, instead, be based on age.

Younger folks would pay less and older folks who are not yet 65 - the age in which you are eligible for Medicare - would pay more.

The proposal also no longer requires individuals and employers to have or offer insurance. Experts say this will likely contribute to the number of uninsured going back up. But lawmakers still have a long way to go before anything is set in stone.

"The individual marketplace is no secret, it's quite unstable. However, there are initiatives in place to improve that and with the new age rating. So, stability, group wise and individual wise, is what we are pushing for in our industry," said Oetgen.

Copyright 2017 WTOC. All rights reserved.