Guest op-ed: GOP should keep promise, protect patients with pre-existing conditions

preexisting condition
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A decade ago, I was advocating for Nevada members of Congress to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At the time, I was motivated by the stories of Cancer patients and survivors, who were facing discrimination in access to health insurance due to their pre-existing conditions. I did not know that my son would be diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at the age of 6. Fortunately, he has been protected from being denied access to health insurance because of the ACA, but those protections continue to be threatened.

During the entirety of 2017, the GOP Congress sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at every turn. Throughout – even as they introduced and voted on proposals that would spike premiums and leave millions uninsured – many agreed with Democrats on at least one thing: consumer protections for those with pre-existing conditions should remain in place.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, even Trump unambiguously promised to protect people with pre-existing conditions, saying in a debate: “I want to keep pre-existing conditions. I think we need it. I think it’s a modern age. And I think we have to have it.”

Now, earlier this month, Trump’s own Department of Justice, along with 20 Republican State Attorneys General, asked the courts to strike down key provisions in the Affordable Care Act. The DOJ and their conservative AG cohorts specifically attacked the provision banning insurance companies from denying coverage or charging people more because of a pre-existing condition – the ACA’s most popular reform.

The real impact of the Trump Administration’s decision if they win the lawsuit is clear: overnight, Americans would once again be at the mercy of insurance companies, which could once again deny coverage or charge more because of a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing conditions include everything from asthma and diabetes to cancer and pregnancy, meaning about half of the entire U.S. population would be affected by such, including 1,215,300 Nevadans.

This move is just another tactic in the GOP and Trump Administration’s greatest act of sabotage of American health care. In December, the GOP Congress – with the votes of Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei – eliminated the requirement that all Americans have health insurance. Last week, the Trump Administration proposed to expand short-term junk plans, which are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions. A report found that “oversight of the short-term market at the state level is limited, and protections for people with preexisting conditions are largely nonexistent.”

According to analyses, the combination of those two actions will raise premiums for comprehensive health insurance even more – a burden that disproportionately falls on those with pre-existing conditions.

All of these actions put American adults with pre-existing conditions – as many as 130 million people – at grave risk. This number includes 1.2 million Nevadans, who could be denied coverage or charged exorbitant amounts that price them out the health care market as a result of these disastrous GOP and Trump Administration policies. Governor Sandoval and other governors responded to Trump’s decision saying:

“Helping our neighbors get health insurance even though they have a pre-existing condition is something Americans support and the Administration’s action will hurt families in our states. This is not right. We’re asking the Administration to reverse their decision and instead work with Congress and Governors on bipartisan solutions to protect coverage and lower health care costs for all Americans, all while protecting those with preexisting conditions.”

This is not a divisive issue; 70 percent of Americans support the law ensuring coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and politicians on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of such vital protections. More telling, however, are the experts: 233 patient and consumer advocates, 17 physician groups, 30 nursing associations, and 11 hospital groups, among many others, have come out in strong opposition to these actions taken by the Trump Administration to undermine consumer protections for pre-existing conditions.

Americans with pre-existing conditions deserve access to affordable, comprehensive coverage, which Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei have threatened time and again with their votes and complicit support for disastrous Trump Administration policies. It is time for Nevadans to stand up and demand their representatives in Congress protect them.

Allison Stephens
Guest Contributor | Allison Stephens is a Nevada System of Higher Education Regent and one of two Nevada members on the Democratic National Committee.

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