Vice President for Health Policy
The revised Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal plan from Senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, which is also backed by Senators Dean Heller and Ron Johnson, would give states broad waiver authority to eliminate the ACA’s core protections for people with pre-existing health conditions. These waivers would come on top of the proposal’s elimination of the ACA’s marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion, its radical restructuring of the rest of the Medicaid program, and its large cuts to total federal funding for health insurance coverage.
Specifically, a little-noticed provision of the block grant funding states would receive under the plan would let them obtain waivers of ACA pre-existing conditions protections and benefit standards for any insurance plan subsidized by block grant funding. For example, a state that used a small portion of its block grant funding to provide even tiny subsidies to all individual market plans could then waive these protections for its entire individual market. Likewise, states that used block grant funding to offer or subsidize coverage for low-income people could offer plans with large gaps in benefits. States seeking waivers would have to explain how they “intend” to maintain access to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, but they wouldn’t have to prove that their waivers would actually do so.
In particular, states could waive the ACA’s:
The waiver authority included in the Cassidy-Graham plan is similar to the so-called “MacArthur amendment” waivers that were included in the House-passed ACA repeal bill. Analyzing those waivers, the Congressional Budget Office concluded:
Announcing their revised plan, Senators Cassidy and Graham explained that they sought to revise their prior legislation to accomplish the goal of letting states waive the ACA’s core consumer protections. Apparently, they largely succeeded: if their bill were adopted, millions of people with pre-existing conditions would lose access to these protections, and, as a result, would lose access to needed coverage and care.