Guest op-ed: A vote for Kavanaugh is a vote against health care

August 31, 2018 4:00 am
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Sen. Dean Heller and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh meet in Heller’s office in July. | Public Domain Image | Wikimedia Commons

Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, 294,000 Nevadans have gained coverage, the uninsured rate has fallen 45.6% in Nevada and medical bankruptcies have dramatically fallen.

Because of the law, insurers can no longer deny coverage or charge more to the 1,215,300 Nevadans with a pre-existing condition, no longer cut coverage off when an arbitrary limit is reached, no longer refuse to cover essential benefits like cancer care, maternity care and substance abuse treatment, and no longer charge women more for than men or seniors five times more than younger individuals.

And by expanding Medicaid, Nevada has seen earlier cancer diagnoses, more medical treatment for opioid use disorders, enhanced health care access in rural communities and a reduction in health disparities.

And, since safe abortion became legal over 40 years ago, an untold number of women’s lives and fertility have been saved and more women have been able to achieve their education and career goals.

Nevadans do not want all this taken away from them. But many Republicans do. And through the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Nevada Sen. Dean Heller will now be asked to decide if he agrees.

Before Kavanaugh was even nominated, we knew what was expected of him. Republicans have been clear they want the ACA – and all the consumer protections that come with it – gone, with nineteen Republican attorneys general even going to court to eliminate those protections for pre-existing conditions, attempting to rip coverage away from 1,215,300 overnight. Kavanaugh’s name was chosen from a list pre-approved by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, groups who have worked for decades to roll back health care and make safe abortion illegal. And former senator Jon Kyl — a vocal opponent of consumer provisions, including maternity coverage, and a lobbyist for Big Pharma — has been appointed to guide Kavanaugh through the nomination process.

With Kavanaugh’s nomination, champions of health care and abortion rights have real cause for concern. Kavanaugh has already proven himself to be biased against health care, giving speeches critical of Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding the law, issuing opinions opposing no-copay birth control coverage, arguing an a president can invalidate a law they don’t agree with, and — astonishingly — keeping a teenager pregnant against her will.

Kavanaugh’s record shows he is not able to provide fair-minded decisions on any number of the many health care related cases working their way through the courts right now – and that’s a scary thought, because these cases involve many of the health care matters closest to the American people: protections for people with pre-existing conditions; complex Medicaid rules designed to kick people off of their insurance; rollbacks on affordable birth control; and numerous Republican state actions to restrict patients’ access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

Some have suggested that the stakes for Nevadans really aren’t that high. Lately, Congressional Republicans have argued that Chief Justice John Roberts is a safe vote in favor of health care, meaning that the majority which has upheld the consumer protections previously remains in place if the law reaches the Supreme Court again. But Roberts has voted against the ACA before, and when casting his single vote in favor of the law, the federal government was defending federal law, making it far from guaranteed he will take the same position now that the government itself is seeking to overturn it.

If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, he could very easily use his power to take away our health care, in turn ending protections for Nevadans with pre-existing conditions, re-implementing lifetime limits on Nevadans’ care, letting insurance companies charge Nevada women more than men and Nevada seniors up to five times more than younger individuals, and ending mandated coverage essential benefits that Nevadans depend on like cancer care, maternity care and substance abuse treatment, once again allowing Nevadans’ care to be placed in the hands of wealthy insurance executives.

Senator Heller has so far consistently sided against Nevadans’ health care by voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and voting in favor of the Republican tax bill which raised premiums double-digits. But Senator Heller has another chance. To do the right thing and protect the care that so many Nevadans hold dear, the choice is clear. Senator Heller must vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

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