Questions remain over GOP health care plan effects on rural communities

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - As lawmakers continue to mull over health care legislation, experts continue to consider possible outcomes. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is taking a close look at the effect the American Health Care Act would have on rural communities in particular.

Jess Cross-Call from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says the House-passed health care legislation would negatively impact rural Alaskans.

“Alaska would face a perfect storm under the house-passed bill,” said Jesse Cross-Call, a senior policy analyst at the CBPP.

The controversy continues. Questions remain over the health care bill passed in the House earlier this month. Cross-Call says Medicaid expansion will take a big hit under the legislation.

“These are seniors. These are people with disabilities. These are children. These are pregnant women. And their coverage would be at risk due to the cuts in the House bill,” said Cross-Call.

In his new report, Cross-Call says under the AHCA the burden for Alaska would shift from taking care of 10 percent of the cost to about 50 percent by 2020. He says with Alaska’s budgetary issues, that’s just not feasible.

“40 percent of Alaskans who gained coverage over the expansion live in rural communities and Medicaid has always been a lifeline for rural Alaska. Expansion has only made it that much more of a lifeline,” said Cross-Call.

Proponents of the GOP legislation say it’s cutting down on excessive funding. Ed Haislmaier from the conservative Heritage Foundation says the Medicaid expansion went too far.

“Able-bodied adults have other options. They can get jobs. They can work,” said Haislmaier.

He says it is difficult for Alaska to cut down on expensive health care because of the geography. He says no matter the legislation, it’s difficult to get enough health care providers in a vast state.

“It’s one of those trade-offs in where you live. I mean you get gorgeous views and the wonderful outdoors, but you’re miles and miles from the nearest hospital,” said Haislmaier.

The health care bill currently sits in the Senate’s hands. The timeline for that legislation is currently up in the air.