Letter to the Editor: Where is the replacement plan that protects coverage for my patients, your constituents?

To the editor:

I have been a practicing physician for 25 years seeing patients in southern middle Tennessee.  I have great reservations about turning our society back to a time where only the rich can access health care.

The Cassidy-Collins proposal, introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Susan Collins (R-ME),  is not a viable replacement plan for the ACA because it would reduce coverage, repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and increase premiums. I ask Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker on behalf of my patients  – and your constituents –– please oppose this bill and stop your rush to repeal the Affordable Care Act until you first pass a replacement that ensures the same protections of the ACA, or better.

The plan introduced leaves too many unanswered questions. Before repealing Obamacare Congress should first pass something that protects what we have and improves it — but that’s not what you are doing.

The Republican proposal repeals essential health benefit (EHB) requirements, allowing insurance companies to once again discriminate against patients. Currently the ACA requires a comprehensive health benefit package, including prescription drugs, maternity coverage, mental health and substance use disorder benefits, free preventative care and others.  Repealing the Essential Health Benefits would mean that maternity care and many other preventative care services would no longer be covered.  Before the ACA, 88% of plans did not cover maternity care, meaning that rolling back this provision would make it harder to start families.

Repealing the individual mandate would lead to lower coverage and higher premiums. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that repealing the individual mandate alone would raise premiums by twenty percent and increase the number of people without coverage by 43 million people.

The Republican plan makes it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to access coverage.  The Cassidy/Collins bill only guarantees coverage if people maintain coverage for 12 months preceding enrollment. People with pre-existing conditions that don’t maintain continuous coverage either get a very limited benefit package or face a new, expensive enrollment penalty.

Further the Republican “plan” has too many holes and leaves too many questions unanswered:

 – How will it protect the current ObamaCare ban on insurance companies charging women more than men just because she is a woman?

– How will it protect current ObamaCare provisions that require insurance companies in all states to cover check-ups for kids, mammograms and birth control without co-pays?

– How will it protect current ObamaCare provisions that cover mental health and prescription drugs?

– How will it make coverage more affordable for people by lowering premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs – while not taking away any of their current benefits?

– Will people currently receiving a health insurance tax credit continue to receive the same amount or more so that they not only “have access to coverage” but can afford it?

– How will it keep the ObamaCare provision that prevents insurance companies from charging people over 55 more than they are today?

– How will it protect the ObamaCare requirement that large companies and other big employers to continue providing health coverage for their employees.”

The bottom line I ask Senator Alexander and Senator Corker: where is the replacement plan that first protects coverage for my patients, and your constituents?  Senators, you love Tennessee; it’s now time for you to love Tennesseans. Before rushing to take away something my patients are counting on, you should first replace it with something at least as good as the Affordable Care Act or better – not worse.

About Dr. Thomas Phelps

Dr. Thomas Phelps has practiced family medicine in Tullahoma for more than 20 years and is affiliated with Harton Regional Medical Center. Prior to becoming a physician, Dr. Phelps taught and coached at Battle Ground Academy. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of the South and attended medical school at Meharry Medical College in Nashville.

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