News Local/State

Healthcare Consumer Group Director Defends Obamacare, Challenges Rep. Davis To Debate

Participants in news conference held by Champaign County Health Care Consumers

Photo Caption: L-R: C-U Public Health Dis. Administrator Julie Pryde; CCHCC Executive Director Claudia Lennhoff, and Affordable Care Act beneficiaries James Bean & Deniece Stevens, at news conf. organized by Champaign County Health Care Consumers. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

The executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers is challenging Congressman Rodney Davis to a debate about health care issues.

Lennhoff is unhappy with Davis’ support for the American Health Care Act, the Republican replacement for Obamacare, which passed the house last week.

At a news conference Thursday in her agency’s offices in Champaign, Lannhoff said many of the hundreds of people who came to Davis’ Champaign office hours on Tuesday had concerns about the legislation.

“Representative Davis’ comments to his constituents and his public statements to the media and on his website and Facebook page, have been extremely misleading or incorrect, and seem to indicate that Representative Davis does not understand key aspects of the bill he just voted for,” said Lennhoff.

Lennhoff says she has been trying to contact Davis’ office about her debate proposal, and is still waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, Davis has accused Obamacare supporters of spreading their own misinformation about the American Health Care Act, particularly about whether the Republican replacement bill provides coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions. Davis says it would indeed provide coverage.

“The same protections currently mandated under Obamacare to prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, remain,” said Davis in a May 4th news release. “This bill goes a step further than Obamacare to help those with pre-existing conditions by including provisions that not just help people get insurance coverage, but insurance they can actually afford.”

But at her Thursday news conference, Lennhoff argued that while the AHCA’s protections include “guaranteed issue,” meaning no one can be denied insurance coverage, the price of that coverage could raise sharply.

Lennhoff says that unlike the Obama-era law, the AHCA would allow insurance companies to set their rates by a patient’s health history – including pre-existing conditions --- if that patient allows their coverage to lapse. Lennhoff said lapses in coverage can happen for many reasons that the patient has little or control over.

“If all you have is guaranteed issue, but insurance companies can price however they want,” said Lennhoff, “people will do what they used to do in the pre-ACA days and forego health insurance.”

Despite her defense of the Affordable Care Act, Lennhoff says there are changes she would like to make to it.  For instance, she would like to eliminate the law’s so-called “Family Glitch.” That refers to cases when the family healthcare benefits offered through one family member’s job is unaffordable.

Lennhoff says in those cases, the Affordable Care Act ought to allow that family to seek lower-priced coverage through the law’s health insurance exchanges — but it currently doesn’t.

“The concept of affordability needs to be refined so that couples would not be forced to take the family coverage, because a lot of times, that’s much more expensive, but be given the opportunity, for example, to get financial assistance through the marketplace,” said Lennhoff.

Lennhoff would also like to see the ACA expanded to provide dental and vision care. But she says overall, the law has many good provisions that the American Health Care Act would take away.