One of Donald Trump's landmark promises during last year's presidential campaign was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The historic legislation sought to make health insurance more affordable by expanding funding to Medicaid and offering protections to those with pre-existing conditions and chronic illnesses. But while millions of Americans are now insured through the ACA, Republicans remain skeptical at the bill's effectiveness, claiming that it is deeply flawed. Because the Republican bill to replace the ACA, the American Health Care Act, recently passed in the House of Representatives, many questions about what an ACA repeal would mean for pre-existing conditions are being raised. For instance, are migraine headaches a pre-existing condition? They make your health insurance a whole lot more expensive, if the AHCA passes through the Senate as well.
In order to understand what the new legislation would mean for those with chronic migraines and other pre-existing conditions, it's important to first know what a pre-existing condition is. According to CNN, a pre-existing condition is basically a "health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts." But, while the AHCA doesn't technically have a set list of what qualifies as a pre-existing condition under its guidelines (an estimated list compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation included a number of shocking entries, including pregnancy), migraines were considered to be so before the ACA became law, meaning that they may be at risk again as well.
Before the ACA, there were many conditions that insurance companies could claim as pre-existing to deny a person coverage. The ACA put a stop to that, though, meaning people who suffered from migraines would be able to get more affordable health insurance and treatment options.
According to the National Headache Foundation, more than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines, and the ACA was an important step in giving all of those people affordable coverage. But the new AHCA might change that. While it doesn't necessarily "deny" coverage to those with migraines, it does stipulate that insurance companies can raise the cost of coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions — including migraines.
According to BuzzFeed, having a pre-existing condition doesn't necessarily mean you will lose your health insurance, but it will cost you, which could in turn mean you're unable to purchase it at all (which, of course, leads to even further insurance consequences down the line — "The Republican plan would require anyone who has a lapse in their coverage of longer than 63 days in the prior year to pay their insurer a penalty equal to 30 percent of the premium of the individual or small group health plan they are purchasing," CNBC reported). BuzzFeed noted:
It is true that under the AHCA, some people with pre-existing conditions will likely face higher premiums, but there are some major caveats to consider.
First, the AHCA is not taking away your existing insurance plan. In theory, people with pre-existing conditions can protect themselves from rising prices by staying insured, because insurers can only jack up prices on new enrollees or people who have let their coverage lapse for more than 63 days.
In other words, if you have a pre-existing condition and currently carry insurance, do not drop it or lose your employment if the AHCA passes. You'll be punished for it otherwise. Sound harsh? That's because it is — and it's exactly why so many legislators on both sides of the aisle are upset with the current iteration of the health care replacement bill.
Hopefully, the AHCA will die in the Senate or be amended to include the pre-existing condition mandate that Obamacare carried. Because being afflicted with migraines is already hard enough, Americans shouldn't have to also worry about their health insurance being taken away because of it.