Oba­macare pro­tec­tions will still cover Coloradans

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John In­gold

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion shook the health care world last week when the Depart­ment of Jus­tice an­nounced that it will no longer de­fend in court key pro­tec­tions of the Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare.

The an­nounce­ment — com­ing in a case brought by Repub­li­can lead­ers in 20 states (but not Colorado) — could mean the end of in­sur­ance pro­tec­tions for peo­ple across the coun­try with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions or high-cost medical needs.

The states ar­gue that those rules are un­con­sti­tu­tional, es­pe­cially in light of a vote in Congress last year to slash to zero dol­lars the penalty for not hav­ing health in­sur­ance, es­sen­tially ren­der­ing mean­ing­less the man­date that all peo­ple be cov­ered.

But, even if bans on pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions re­turn un­der fed­eral law, Colorado’s in­sur­ance com­mis­sioner is con­fi­dent that the state’s res­i­dents will be pro­tected. That’s be­cause Colorado law­mak­ers in 2013 — when the ACA was be­ing im­ple­mented — passed a bill that en­shrines ACA pro­tec­tions in state law, as well.

“Re­gard­less of how the Jus­tice Depart­ment or the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion at­tempt to change the Af­ford­able Care Act, the Division of In­sur­ance will con­tinue to en­force Colorado law and main­tain this im­por­tant pro­tec­tion for our cit­i­zens,” in­terim In­sur­ance Com­mis­sioner Michael Con­way said this week in a state­ment.

As a re­sult of the 2013 bill — which leg­is­la­tors at the time called an “align­ment” bill — state law pro­hibits health insurers from charg­ing peo­ple more based on their health sta­tus. It also re­quires that health insurers of­fer poli­cies to any­one, re­gard­less of whether they have pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions.

If courts rule those pro­tec­tions are un­con­sti­tu­tional in fed­eral law, that could po­ten­tially open the door for a law­suit seek­ing to strike down Colorado’s rules, as well. But Con­way said the cur­rent law­suit from GOP lead­ers across the coun­try deals with Congress’s au­thor­ity, not states’, mean­ing the ar­gu­ments wouldn’t be the same.

“We won’t be turn­ing back the clock,” Con­way said.

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