Mary­land Democrats: Trump ACA ma­neu­vers could af­fect 260,000 in state

Maryland Independent - - News - By JARED GOLDSTEIN Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

BAL­TI­MORE — As many as 260,000 Mary­land res­i­dents could see higher pre­mi­ums or lose their health care cov­er­age al­to­gether be­cause of pre-ex­ist­ing med­i­cal conditions, age or gen­der un­der a new Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion le­gal strat­egy, state Democrats warned on Tuesday.

Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings (D-Md., 7th) along with other Demo­cratic mem­bers of the Mary­land con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion and state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh (D) at­tacked the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion for re­fus­ing to pro­tect Amer­i­cans guar­an­teed the right to health in­sur­ance un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The pro­tec­tions, the Democrats ar­gued, are of the ut­most im­por­tance and won’t be in­val­i­dated with­out a le­gal fight.

“We’re bet­ter than that,” Cum­mings said. “We’re a bet­ter countr y than that.”

In June, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions wrote in a let­ter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) that the Jus­tice Depart­ment would not de­fend key pro­vi­sions of the health care law, a reg­u­lar tar­get of at­tacks by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and re­peal ef­forts by con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans.

Cum­mings re­leased a re­port by the Demo­cratic staff of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee that de­tailed po­ten­tial im­pacts of such a pol­icy on Mary­lan­ders. Frosh is among more than a dozen at­tor­neys gen­eral chal­leng­ing Ses­sions’s de­ci­sion in fed­eral court.

“Even more trou­bling, they did not of­fer any al­ter­na­tive,” Cum­mings said at a press con­fer­ence.

He was flanked by Frosh, Mary­land Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, and Reps. Dutch Rup­pers­berger of Ti­mo­nium and John Sar­banes of Tow­son. All are Democrats.

Trump has largely moved to de­fund the ACA since tak­ing of­fice, scal­ing back fed­eral fund­ing from $62.5 mil­lion in 2016 to just $10 mil­lion this year.

But Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar has chal­lenged at­tacks on Trump’s han­dling of the health care law.

“The pres­i­dent try­ing to sab­o­tage the [Af­ford­able Care Act] is prov­ing bet­ter at man­ag­ing it than the pres­i­dent who wrote the law,” Azar said dur­ing a Sept. 27 speech in Nashville, The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner re­ported.

Un­der the new Trump pol­icy, 167,000 Mary­lan­ders with pre-ex­ist­ing conditions could lose cov­er­age or face hikes in pre­mi­ums, the Democrats’ study es­ti­mated. Of those, 79,000 have such se­vere pre-ex­ist­ing conditions that in­sur­ance car­ri­ers could deny them any cov­er­age.

Up to 160,000 Mary­land women could be charged more than men for the same health care cov­er­age, the re­port said. Such dis­crim­i­na­tion was barred by the health care law.

In ad­di­tion, up to 108,000 older Mary­land res­i­dents could be charged more, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Mary­land work­ers in higher-risk oc­cu­pa­tions also could lose pro­tec­tions: 19,000 con­struc­tion work­ers, 9,700 ship­ping clerks and 4,800 emer­gency med­i­cal tech­ni­cians.

“De­fend­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act will af­fect the lives of Mary­lan­ders and peo­ple all over this coun­try,” Cardin said. “It’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant that the Amer­i­can peo­ple un­der­stand what’s at stake when the pres­i­dent does not de­fend the Af­ford­able Care Act.”

A Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion poll re­leased in Septem­ber showed that 50 per­cent of adults held a fa­vor­able view of the ACA. Forty per­cent held an un­fa­vor­able view. An­other Kaiser poll found that 75 per­cent of peo­ple polled said it was “very im­por­tant” that the ACA’s pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing conditions en­sur­ing guar­an­teed cov­er­age re­mains law.

“When the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion de­cided not to de­fend the law … they’ve given a green light to all those who want to undo that pro­tec­tion through the courts,” Van Hollen said.

Trump, who said dur­ing his cam­paign that he wanted to put some­body on the Supreme Court who would help over­turn the ACA, has done just that in nom­i­nat­ing Brett Ka­vanaugh. In 2011, Ka­vanaugh was the dis­senter in a 2-1 fed­eral ap­peals court rul­ing on the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the ACA’s in­di­vid­ual man­date pro­vi­sion.

Cum­mings said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hos­til­ity to the health care law has caused un­ease even among gov­ern­ment at­tor­neys.

“Their ac­tions are so in­de­fen­si­ble,” Cum­mings said, “that three of four ca­reer at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the gov­ern­ment with­drew from the case rather than sign their names on the brief. One at­tor­ney even re­signed.”

Joel McEl­vain and two other lawyers with­drew from the case this sum­mer; he later re­signed. All three worked on a law­suit brought by Texas and other Repub­li­can-led states that chal­lenges the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the ACA and is likely to find its way to the Supreme Court.

PHOTO BY LAU­REN KOENIG/CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE

BAL­TI­MORE — Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings (D-Md., 7th) warns that new Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion health care poli­cies could hurt 260,000 Mary­lan­ders.

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