PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare cleared its first major hurdle in Congress on Thursday, but its many critics say the legislation is far from certain to pass.
In the meantime, Oregonians who benefit from Obamacare, especially those covered by the state’s aggressive expansion of the Oregon Health Plan (the state’s version of Medicaid) are worried about losing coverage.
“There’s a lot of people out there that are really on the edge,” said Nancy Judkins, an OHP member since it was created in 1993. “They have to have their coverage. It’s inhumane,” she said.
Judkins is convinced she would not have survived throat cancer without the OHP provided nurse practitioner who guided her through the difficult treatment process.
“I’d probably be dead. I’m sure I would be dead,” she said.
The GOP bill does not authorize that anyone be removed from a state’s Medicaid rolls, but it does roll back the federal dollars to pay for Medicaid expansion. Even without the replacement bill, Medicaid costs would slowly be shifted back to the states, which is why Oregon is facing a $350 million deficit for the Oregon Health Plan over the next two years.
“It’s not a surprise, we knew this was coming,” said economist Eric Fruits. “So we’ve got a big problem now with Medicaid expansion.”
Fruits advocates a market-based solution that he said would convince Oregon Health Plan members to buy low cost private insurance. “If we go to a market based system, you might actually see premiums decline, better coverage out there, and that means some might choose to get out of Medicaid,” said Fruits.
The House bill was co-written by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River), who also introduced the bill on Monday. The bill was debated for over 24 hours before passing out of two committees Thursday morning.