Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama has defended the American Health Care Act amendment that would enable to states to get a waiver to remove pre-existing condition protections that had been guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act. Brooks asserted that this would be fair because people with pre-existing conditions have not "led good lives."
The GOP-majority House is currently considering another vote on the AHCA following the addition of the MacArthur amendment, which would allow for states to obtain an exemption from the ACA's essential health benefits mandate. This would result in state residents with pre-existing conditions being limited to less coverage while also being charged more by insurance companies, CNN Money reports.
The amendment stipulates that these states would have to establish high-risk pools, a practice that was used before the ACA. Health care groups, such as the American Medical Association, have voiced concern about the effectiveness about high-risk pools and have estimated that the MacArthur amendment could result in Americans with pre-existing conditions being unable to afford coverage, according to PolitiFact.
On May 1, Brooks addressed the controversy over the amendment, asserting that Americans who have led healthy lifestyles should not have to pay in the same pool as those with pre-existing conditions.
"My understanding is that it will allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost of those people who lead good lives, they're healthy, you know, they are doing the things to keep their bodies healthy," Brooks told CNN.
"And right now, those are the people who have done things the right way that are seeing their costs skyrocketing," the Alabama senator added.
Brooks is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and had been among the GOP lawmakers who opposed the original version of the AHCA. On March 23, he had suggested that Congress should simply repeal all of the ACA and figure out a replacement later.
Immediately after suggesting that Americans with pre-existing conditions burden those who have led healthy lifestyles, Brooks added, "Now in fairness, a lot of these people with pre-existing conditions, they have those conditions through no fault of their own, and I think our society under those circumstances needs to help."
The Alabama senator concluded it would be "a tough balancing act between the higher cost of these mandates which denies people coverage because they can't afford the health insurance policies anymore ... and having enough coverage to help those people who are truly in need."
Brooks' comments were met with an immediate backlash in social media, with several Americans with pre-existing conditions accusing him of being insensitive, AL.com reports.
"Dear [Brooks], my husband had prostate cancer, but lead a 'clean life,'" wrote one Twitter user. "Should he die for it?"
"[Brooks] I hate asthma since I was 12," wrote another Twitter user. "My daughter has had it since birth. Please let me know what we did that was 'bad' to get it."
A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that if the pre-ACA health care market had remained the same by 2015, 27 percent of national adults under the age of 65 would have been uninsurable due to pre-existing health conditions. They found that 33 percent of Alabama residents under the age of 65 would have been uninsurable, higher than the national average.