The future of the Affordable Care Act is currently at stake.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans is hearing oral arguments in Texas v. United States, a case in which a lower court judge has already ruled that the massive health law is unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was brought by a number of Republican attorneys general and governors and supported by the Trump administration to eliminate the ACA.
“We have to do everything we can to sound the alarm about the devastating impact of this lawsuit,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said during a conference call on Tuesday to highlight the importance of upholding the health care law.
“We have to hold Republican members of Congress accountable. Democrats in Congress are not doing enough to stop Republicans from devastating our health care system,” he said.
“We’ve got to ramp up and amp up our game to stop Republicans from destroying our health care system, ripping away coverage from more than 20 million people and ending protections for more than 150 million Americans.”
He said a repeal of the law could cause Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals to close, leading to job losses and less health care access.
Casey was joined by Pennsylvania Health Access Network executive director Antoinette Kraus and two Pennsylvania residents with pre-existing health conditions.
“If the ACA is repealed in its entirely, it would usurp coverage for millions of Americans, raise premiums for people with pre-existing conditions, put insurance companies back in charge and force seniors to pay more for prescription drugs,” Kraus said.
“These continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act create grave fear and anxiety among Pennsylvanians.”
Repealing the ACA could cause approximately 858,000 Pennsylvanians to lose health coverage insurance, more than 800,000 people enrolled through Medicaid expansion to lose their coverage, and the state to lose $5.1 billion during the first year in federal health care funding, according to the Urban Institute.
The ACA also protects more than 5.3 million Pennsylvanians who have pre-existing conditions from being denied health insurance coverage.
Matt Stefanelli, a Scranton-based psychotherapist in private practice who purchases insurance through the marketplace, said he is terrified at the possibility of the ACA being repealed.
Prior to the passage of the ACA, he was continually denied health insurance due to his asthma and when he was able to find insurance it was costly. He had a high deductible and faced paying premiums of more than $650 a month, which offered access to care only in emergency situations.
Due to the ACA, Stefanelli was able to get a reasonably priced plan for his family. His son has Type 1 diabetes and they rely on Medicaid to help pay for his monitoring devices that allow him to go to school.
“My wife and I would be unable to afford medical care if we went back to where we were prior to the Affordable Care Act being passed,” Stefanelli said.
“My wife and I have been able to afford health care for ourselves and for our children given the law — the changes that have occurred — and we are terrified at this point to go backward. So every day it’s an ongoing anxiety, given the nature of what is happening politically.”
Janice Nathan, a Pittsburgh resident who also benefited from the ACA, is concerned she could lose her health coverage.
The self-employed speech language pathologist had a kidney transplant 18 years ago and has received coverage through the ACA since its inception. Before the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, Nathan had a plan that offered far less coverage than plans offered through an employer.
“I was always terrified that if my premium was half a second late, I would then have no insurance coverage,” she said.
“I was truly frightened about ending up homeless or even dying because I wouldn’t have access to all that I needed. When the ACA was enacted, I started sobbing because from that second I never had to worry about losing health insurance because of my pre-existing condition,” Nathan continued.
“Now I’ve gone back to being terrified again. I’m at risk at being denied health insurance coverage.”