Local experts disagree on impact of GOP health care plan

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Health care experts in our region differ when it comes to the impact from the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The AHCA is the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as Obamacare.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the AHCA will lead to higher premiums in the short term and leave millions fewer Americans covered.

Kimberly Adams Tufts, Professor and Associate Dean of Health Sciences at Old Dominion University, says the local effects will be most evident through the Medicaid program.

“Many of our local hospitals will be impacted,” Adams Tufts told 10 On Your Side. “So there’s going to be an increase of what we call uninsured care, in the old days what we called ‘charity care.’”

About one in six Hampton Roads residents has Medicaid health coverage. Adams Tufts says Virginia’s share would be slashed from $3 billion to just $87 million. She says the plan would leave local agencies connected to Medicaid with less money — the Norfolk Community Services Board, the FAMIS child health care program, and the HIV Aids Resource and Consultation Center at EVMS would be just a few.

Steven M. Hays, Associate Professor of Health Care Management at Regent University, sees the AHCA in a very different light. Hays says the plan maintains coverage for pre-existing conditions and continues to allow children to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.

Hays says the GOP plan would be good news for business, “Particularly those small business owners who have been adversely impacted by the challenging requirements imposed by (Obamacare).”

The AHCA would eliminate employer and individual mandates, the current law that requires people to get insurance and employers of a certain size to offer it. The two professors are on opposite sides of that issue.

“This will allow individuals and families the freedom to make health care choices that are best for their given situations,” Hays said in an analysis he emailed to WAVY-TV.

Adams Tufts says that advantage would be negated if the cost of coverage goes up, as the CBO analysis predicts at least for the first few years.

“If I can’t afford coverage, how much choice do I really have?”