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Walden staffers defend pre-existing conditions

In a tense meeting with demonstrators opposed to the Republican repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, a local representative of Congressman Greg Walden insisted that the vast majority of people with pre-existing conditions wouldn't see changes to their coverage.

"There's a very narrow set of scenarios in which folks with pre-existing conditions would have any impact on their health care coverage," Walden's constituent services manager Troy Ferguson told seven members of Oregon District 2 Indivisible Friday at the Republican congressman's Medford office.

Under the American Health Care Act passed Thursday in the House of Representatives — and supported by Walden — the only scenario in which an individual would pay more for a pre-existing condition is if they lose coverage for more than 63 days or if their state places them in a high-risk pool, Ferguson claimed.

The only way they'd lose coverage altogether is if their state applies for a waiver, which Ferguson said would require a specific set of circumstances — including proof that the individual's denial would reduce premiums for all policyholders, that the denial would increase enrollment and that the denial would stabilize the market.

Further, Ferguson said that the likelihood of such a denial happening in Oregon is "between slim and none."

"What about all the other states?" Peggy Vernier of Medford asked. "We care about people other than just ourselves."

Vernier also touched on costs, expressing frustration that Republicans rushed a vote.

"What I'm hearing is that Trumpcare will have a negative financial impact on people with pre-existing conditions," Vernier said, relaying frustration that Republicans didn't wait for the Congressional Budget Office to score the latest amendment. "The whole thing needs to be analyzed."

Indivisible members also voiced objections over cuts to Planned Parenthood in the proposed legislation. There are local Planned Parenthood offices in Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass. Planned Parenthood said 1,700 patients who utilize federal funds for at least part of their services are served annually in southwestern Oregon, which includes a region from Eugene to the California border. Federal funds cannot be used for abortion services.

"Planned Parenthood is extremely important to me as they provided almost all the health care for me in my youth," Lenora Kell of Eagle Point said, adding that she volunteered with the organization to provide sex education in the late 1970s. She voiced concerns about President Trump's efforts to defund the agency.

"Does Representative Walden support Trump's war on women, and does he support health care and education for all women?" Kell asked.

"I'm not going to say the congressman supports any war on women," Ferguson said, adding that Walden said in an April 14 town hall meeting that the cuts would last only one year. "His justification is that money goes elsewhere and is put to better use."

Bruce Bauer of Medford pressed Ferguson about whether any of those agencies that would benefit from the funding provide abortion services. Ferguson said no.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

Indivisible group members Peggy Vernier and Dasja Dolan of Medford voice their concerns to Troy Ferguson, Congressman Greg Walden's constituent manager in Medford, during a meeting Friday. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]