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To understand what it means that Congress is on its way to repealing the Affordable Care Act, it will help to better understand what the act is. It includes health care provisions that many people do not think of as being part of Obamacare. Julie Appleby wrote a report for Kaiser Health News and spoke with our own Rachel Martin.
RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: Thanks for coming in.
JULIE APPLEBY: Thank you.
MARTIN: A lot of Americans don't realize Obamacare isn't just about the insurance marketplaces. What else is in there that might go away if the ACA is dismantled?
APPLEBY: Well, you're right. There's a lot of things people don't realize. So here's three. So on the way in today, you stop at the coffee shop. And you look at that muffin. And you see there's 400 calories in it, right? So...
APPLEBY: The health...
MARTIN: I hate seeing that, by the way.
APPLEBY: ...Law (laughter) requires that restaurants and fast-food chains with at least 20 outlets post calories counts on their menu items.
MARTIN: Oh, that was part of the ACA.
APPLEBY: So that was part of the ACA. At work, employers must provide new moms break time to express milk and a private area, that's not a bathroom stall, in order to do so. At the emergency room, there are some limits in the law on what insurers can charge patients if they're seen in an out-of-network emergency room. Those are just three of the things that a lot of people don't realize are in there that could potentially go away, depending on the repeal process.
MARTIN: In terms of what we know now about how that's unfolding, how likely is it that these things would disappear?
APPLEBY: You know, that's highly uncertain. We don't really know what's going to stay in and what's going to go. The Republicans are obviously eager to repeal the law. But they've not yet coalesced around a replacement plan or even a timetable on when they will do this.
So some of these items could be saved. You know, the Democrats and the Republicans may say, hey, let's keep a certain amount of these aspects. But we just really don't know what will stay and what will go.
MARTIN: Even if the law changes and the legal requirement to comply with these laws goes away, is it likely companies will still provide them? I mean, once you've given women a place to express breast milk, and then you take it away - I imagine there'd be some repercussions.
APPLEBY: Clearly, women and new moms really want that protection. They want that time. They want a private room. Employers sometimes feel burdened with that. They've got to find a place. They've got to set it aside. So there may be some pushback from employers.
The Republicans may feel that that has overstepped the boundaries. You're telling an employer how to operate. But at the same time, they're going to hear from some of their constituents that they really want to keep this provision.
MARTIN: What's the most important yet little-known item in the ACA that might go away, in your opinion?
APPLEBY: You know, there's a lot of things in there. But I was thinking about this. And before the health law, insurers could place annual or lifetime caps on how much they would pay towards your medical care. And these caps were often set at, like, a million or $2 million, which sounds like a lot. But if you have an expensive, serious illness, like cancer, or you have a premature baby that spends a lot of time in the intensive care unit, you can hit that cap.
Insurers said they needed this as one tool to slow premium growth. But it could leave consumers in the middle of an illness or right after an illness without insurance coverage. And that's going to be something that's discussed a lot depending on the repeal package that's chosen.
MARTIN: Julie Appleby is a reporter for Kaiser Health News. Julie, thank you so much.
APPLEBY: You're welcome. Thank you.
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