Ad­vo­cates: Peo­ple die if kicked out of plans

Want judge to re­ject stance on Oba­macare

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

Pa­tient ad­vo­cates will tell a fed­eral judge on Thurs­day to re­ject the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion that much of Oba­macare is now il­le­gal, warn­ing that if more peo­ple are kicked out of their health plans, “they die.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion told a judge in Texas last week that it won’t de­fend Oba­macare against a law­suit filed by Repub­li­can-led states seek­ing to undo the law’s re­quire­ment that in­sur­ers cover peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions who try to buy plans in the ex­changes.

But the pa­tient groups, who will file briefs in the case Thurs­day, say Amer­i­cans with can­cer, di­a­betes and heart dis­ease would suf­fer im­me­di­ately if the courts strike down those parts of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Even peo­ple who’ve never had ma­jor health is­sues should worry about re­turn­ing to pre-Oba­macare rules, the groups ar­gue, point­ing to in­sur­ers who used to rum­mage through med­i­cal his­to­ries for any ex­cuse to avoid pay­outs.

“Be­fore the Af­ford­able Care Act, even healthy peo­ple who could get a health in­sur­ance pol­icy were of­ten dropped or faced re­jec­tion of their med­i­cal bills,” said Kath­leen Skam­bis, and Amer­i­can Lung As­so­ci­a­tion board mem­ber and lung can­cer sur­vivor.

Mary Rou­ve­las, se­nior coun­sel at the Amer­i­can Can­cer So­ci­ety Can­cer Ac­tion Net­work, said the ev­i­dence is clear: “If peo­ple don’t have real health in­sur­ance — com­pre­hen­sive health in­sur­ance — they die.”

The Texas case has quickly turned into a ma­jor show­down over Oba­macare’s fu­ture. The GOP-led states ar­gue that after Congress nixed the in­di­vid­ual man­date re­quir­ing all Amer­i­cans to have in­sur­ance as part of last year’s tax-cut law, the le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for other parts of the 2010 law also dis­ap­pears.

One of those other parts is Oba­macare’s pro­tec­tions for sicker Amer­i­cans. As writ­ten, the law prod­ded health­ier peo­ple into the mar­ket­place through the in­di­vid­ual man­date, then used their pre­mi­ums to help cover the costs of the sicker cus­tomers who could no longer be de­nied coverage.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion says it sup­ports coverage for pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions as a mat­ter of pol­icy, but last week in­formed U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor that it couldn’t dis­agree with the GOP-led states’ le­gal rea­son­ing.

Repub­li­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers are be­ing pushed to take sides in the emerg­ing case.

Se­nate Health Com­mit­tee Chair­man La­mar Alexan­der bluntly op­posed the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion, say­ing he “didn’t hear a sin­gle sen­a­tor say” they wanted to scrap the pro­tec­tions when they ze­roed out penal­ties tied to Oba­macare’s “in­di­vid­ual man­date” in last year’s tax over­haul.

“The Jus­tice De­part­ment ar­gu­ment in the Texas case is as far-fetched as any I’ve ever heard,” the Ten­nessee Repub­li­can said.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McConnell said his troops still fa­vor pro­tect­ing peo­ple with pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions and shifted blame onto Democrats, who walked away from an Oba­macare sta­bi­liza­tion pack­age last year. He noted the ad­min­is­tra­tion is work­ing on its own plans to ex­pand cheaper op­tions.

Health Sec­re­tary Alex Azar sidestepped the de­bate Tues­day, telling Congress the Jus­tice De­part­ment took a “le­gal po­si­tion” as op­posed to one steeped in pol­icy.

A Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion taken last June said seven in 10 Amer­i­cans think the fed­eral govern­ment should con­tinue to bar health in­sur­ers from charg­ing peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions more for their coverage.

Se­nior House Democrats asked the Jus­tice De­part­ment on Wed­nes­day to jus­tify its de­ci­sion not to de­fend the 2010 law.

Re­fus­ing to de­fend a law is not un­prece­dented — the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion made the same move with re­spect to the De­fense of Mar­riage Act, de­clin­ing to de­fend it.

Still, Democrats ar­gue the de­part­ment’s de­ci­sion was a political move.

“In fail­ing to de­fend these pro­vi­sions, the Trump Ad­min­is­tra­tion is try­ing — yet again — to sab­o­tage the ACA at the ex­pense of con­sumers across the na­tion,” the Democrats wrote to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions. “Your de­ci­sion could sub­ject mil­lions of Amer­i­cans with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions to the same dis­crim­i­na­tion they faced be­fore the pas­sage of the ACA.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Health Sec­re­tary Alex Azar told Congress on Tues­day that the Jus­tice De­part­ment took a “le­gal po­si­tion” that le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for other parts of Oba­macare dis­ap­pears after the in­di­vid­ual man­date was nixed.

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