Rep. Young mum on health care bill; Murkowski knocks it

Rep. Don Young, center, in the U.S. Capitol in January. With him are his wife, Anne Young, and spokesman Matt Shuckerow

The U.S. House plans to vote Thursday on a Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, and Alaska Congressman Don Young isn’t declaring a position. His office says Young is studying the proposal and has no new comments on the subject.

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski wasn’t so reticent Wednesday afternoon.

“I have real hardship with the direction I’m seeing the House go,” Murkowski said.

She acknowledged she hasn’t followed every turn in the negotiations, but she doesn’t like that the bill would allow insurance companies in some states to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions.

“I watched the president’s interview this weekend where he basically said ‘No, no, no. Don’t worry. Pre-existing is covered,'” Murkowski said. “Well, it is and it isn’t.”

The bill President Trump negotiated with House Republicans would let states opt out of the requirement that insurers charge people of the same age the same premium, regardless of their medical status.

Murkowski said that’s the wrong feature of the Affordable Care Act to ditch.

“I talk to Alaskans about the things that they care about. The first thing that is out of their mouth is, ‘Oh, I like the pre-existing condition part,’” Murkowski said.

A new version of the House bill would add $8 billion over five years to lower costs for people who are riskiest to insure. Murkowski said she’s not sure that’s a good approach.

Young kept quiet in March, too, about a previous Republican bill to replace the ACA. He wouldn’t say how he planned to vote then, even as he was headed into the Capitol to cast his “aye” or “nay.” Shortly after the vote was cancelled for lack of Republican support, Young declared victory and said the bill would’ve been bad for Alaskans.

The Alaska Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education is among those urging Young to reject the Republican health care bill, at least as it stood at the start of the week. In a letter to Young, the Council said removing protection for pre-existing conditions would allow insurers to deny coverage to 160,000 Alaskans by pricing them out of the market.

Under President Obama’s signature health care law, insurance companies can’t deny coverage or charge more based on a person’s medical history.

The House is scheduled to leave Friday for a 10-day recess.