WASHINGTON – First, Diana Muller’s vision starts to blur. Next, she loses feeling along her left side. Then comes the debilitating pain.
The 39-year-old Silver Spring resident suffers from seizure migraines, some of which last more than four days. But after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, worrying about how she would pay for health insurance was no longer a headache.
That changed after the election.
Now Muller, along with many of Maryland’s Democratic lawmakers, has plenty to worry about.
President-elect Donald Trump said throughout his campaign and in the months since his election that he would make repealing Obamacare a priority, although no clear replacement plan has been set forth.
The potential impact of such an action was revealed Tuesday, when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released a report saying that 18 million people would lose their health insurance within a year if Congress repealed certain major provisions of the law.
Over the next decade, the report said, repealing the health care law without a plan to replace it could translate into an increase of 32 million uninsured Americans, while individual non-group insurance premiums could double.
“I’m really, really scared,” Muller said. “If the Affordable Care Act goes away, then so does my health insurance.”
The budget office’s report analyzed a proposed 2015 measure to repeal the bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Obama.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, criticized the report’s conclusions, saying it represented a “one-sided hypothetical scenario.”
“Today’s report shows only part of the equation – a repeal of Obamacare without any transitional policies or reforms to address costs and empower patients,” said Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Republicans support repealing Obamacare and implementing step by step reforms so that Americans have access to affordable health care.”
But Maryland Democrats have used the findings to fuel their fight against repealing the Affordable Care Act.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called the report a “damning indictment of Congressional Republicans’ irresponsible and dangerous repeal proposal.”
“This report ought to alarm all Americans who care deeply about the future of health care in our country and of our economy, no matter their political affiliation,” Hoyer said in a statement.
Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin tweeted that “numbers don’t lie,” adding that repealing the legislation without a plan to replace it “would be financially devastating and morally irresponsible.”
“It’s not just about 400K MDers who will lose coverage if #ACA repealed w/o replacement. We all will have higher premiums and less coverage,” Cardin tweeted.
Hours after the budget office released its report, five members of the Maryland congressional delegation spoke about the importance of Obamacare at a town hall meeting in Clinton, Maryland.
In Maryland, the uninsured rate has fallen 42 percent since 2010 and 278,000 people in the state have gained coverage, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.
Muller already is thinking about the ways in which the legislation’s repeal would change her life. Before Obama’s landmark healthcare law, she said, she paid a $500 premium every month and needed financial help from her parents to make it work. Her seizure migraines have made it difficult to find work.
Muller’s current insurance plan makes it possible to visit a neurologist and pain management doctor, and covers her trips to the emergency room and urgent care.
Last week, the Republican-controlled Congress voted to pass a budget resolution that signaled the first step toward repealing the law. Some GOP lawmakers have said they’ll announce their replacement plans in coming days, as House and Senate committees are preparing to write legislation rolling back large portions of the law.
Trump told The Washington Post last weekend that he was almost done with a plan to provide “insurance for everybody,” but The Post noted that he did not provide details or a timeline.
Confirmation hearings began Wednesday for Rep. Tom Price, Trump’s pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services. In this position, the Georgia Republican would play an integral role in shaping the administration’s policy on health care.
Price has introduced his own legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare four times.
As Muller awaits Trump’s inauguration, the uncertainty has her worried and the recent CBO report didn’t help.
“This is something that’s extremely important to a lot of people, including me,” she said. “People don’t realize how they’re going to be affected – and I think it will affect more than 18 million people.”