Report says repeal would be harmful to Georgians

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are vowing to repeal what they call the "Job-Killing Health Care Law" by wiping out the legislation enacted last year.

A Georgia advocacy group, however, argues that doing so would cost people in a number of ways -- from allowing insurance companies to continue to discriminate by charging women more and denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, to wiping out tax breaks for small businesses and killing reforms that could lower premiums.

In a report released Monday, Georgia Public Interest Research Group argued that repealing the Affordable Care Act and others would open the door for insurance companies to continue practices such as rescission, in which insurance companies abruptly drop coverage for the sick based on technical mistakes.

Women are often charged higher premiums than men, the report states. A study by the National Women's Law Center found a 40-year-old nonsmoking woman in Georgia was charged up to 47 percent more than a male smoker of the same age, the report says.

Other findings in the report:

- Allowing people to be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions could affect more than 1.8 million people in Georgia under the age of 65.

- Not allowing children to remain on their parents' coverage until age 26 could affect 43,500 people in Georgia.

- More than 120,000 small businesses in Georgia could qualify for a tax credit in this year's filing of up to 35 percent of the cost of health coverage if the law is not overturned.

"I don't think a lot of people knew about that," said Stephanie Ali, the program associate for Georgia PIRG. That has been one of the problems that supporters of reform have faced as they have been mainly on the defensive, she said.

"A lot of the work we've had to do is just clear up things that have not been true whatsoever," Ali said, citing so-called death panels. "So much of it has been defending against false statements that we really haven't been clear about what this will do."

Groups that support repeal, such as the Heritage Foundation, argue that reform could harm access for seniors because of Medicare cuts and raise costs for employers with new mandates. Many of the Medicare cuts, though, are lower subsidies to Medicare Advantage plans that cost the government $1,000 more per patient than traditional Medicare patients, the report states, adding that other studies show the reforms could lead to a reduction of $3,000 per employee for employers.

Last week, the House voted to proceed on a repeal of health reform. In a column on his Web site, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would like to see in its place a Republican alternative that would still provide access to those with pre-existing conditions but enact medical liability reform, allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines and expand Health Savings Accounts.

Should the repeal pass the House, the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate appears unlikely to go along and President Obama would probably veto a repeal of his signature legislation.

That's why Ali refers to the repeal as "political maneuvering."

"It doesn't seem likely to pass," she said, "and even if it did, it would only be harmful for people here in Georgia."

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