Loss of ‘life-changing health benefits' could be devastating to country's health care, College tells Congress
Feb. 22, 2019 (ACP) – A federal judge's ruling that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional could have a devastating impact, the American College of Physicians has told the U.S. House of Representatives.
“ACP hopes and anticipates that this decision by a single federal judge in Texas will be reversed on appeal, but we take nothing for granted and will be doing all that we can to ensure that patients do not lose current law protections,” ACP said in a Feb. 6 statement provided to the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee before its hearing on the impact of the court ruling.
Jonni McCrann, ACP's senior manager of legislative affairs, said the College hopes the statement made a difference.
“It may have helped guide lawmakers in deciding the role they may want to take when it comes to the Texas case and the action they feel they can take after hearing from a panel of legal and policy experts,” she said.
At the moment, the federal judge's ruling is the most significant and high-profile threat to the ACA, also known as Obamacare. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor overturned the entire law, arguing that it could no longer stand in light of the 2017 decision by Congress to eliminate the mandate that individuals have health insurance.
The ruling is on hold as it goes through the appeal process. Many health policy experts are skeptical that higher judges will uphold the ruling, but the prospect deeply worries ACP.
McCrann noted, the ACA “was a transformative law in terms of instituting near universal health care coverage for millions, ensuring essential health benefits and protections for patients, its investment in programs designed to expand access to primary care and its expansion of innovative payment and delivery systems.”
“While not a perfect law, the ACA has been a success story in improving health care in this country, and ACP supports it,” ACP noted in its statement to the congressional subcommittee. “If the ruling by the Texas judge – which is that the ACA is unconstitutional – is allowed to stand, all of those life-changing ACA health benefits go away, with no plan for how to replace them or how to address the consequences.”
McCrann also said that the results of the 2018 election have removed another threat to the ACA. “There is no longer the risk of ACA repeal-and-replace legislation advancing in Congress now that the House majority is controlled by the Democrats,” she said.
But other dangers still exist, including threats directly from the White House.
As a Washington Post analysis noted, “citing a goal of making health insurance less expensive, the administration has expanded access to potentially leaner health plans via association plans and short-term coverage – and has invited states to request changes to their insurance marketplaces that would allow insurers to duck some coverage requirements.”
In addition, a commentator with the Bloomberg news service wrote in December that “there are plenty of other threats to the law's stability, including questions around whether insurers will continue to enter markets and lower rates in the face of weaker enrollment.” That report added that “the administration is also pushing the idea, however legally dubious, that states should be able to apply the ACA's insurance subsidies to skimpy plans, which would cause a mess.”
ACP continues to monitor all efforts to weaken the ACA and, moving forward, McCrann said, “ACP will continue to be diligent in its advocacy to defend the ACA.”
ACP's statement to the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is available on the College's website.