Ahead of a court case that will, yet again, decide if the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, lawmakers, health care advocates and community organizers are speaking out about the importance of the health care legislation.
Maria-Teresa Liebermann with Battle Born Progress said protections for those with pre-existing conditions, expanded access to Medicaid and additional support for rural hospitals are all on the line.
“This could potentially have devastating consequences,” she said at a press conference Monday. “This decision could cost people their insurance and their health.”
In December, a federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional after Congress removed a provision that penalized people who didn’t purchase health insurance — the judge said without the individual mandate, the law was no longer constitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is expected to hear oral arguments in Texas v. United States on Tuesday.
“Attacking and dismantling the Affordable Care Act will destabilize our individual market, send premiums skyrocketing and dismantle protections for those with pre-existing conditions and cut out access to health care for millions of Americans,” said Democratic Rep. Susie Lee, who represents Nevada’s third congressional district, at Monday’s event.
Earlier this year, Attorney General Aaron Ford joined 20 other attorneys general in filing a brief to defend the Affordable Care Act and argue that every provision of the law is valid.
Because of the health care law, Lee said, more than 282,000 people have either gained health insurance or been able to qualify for Medicaid. “That’s 282,000 Nevadans who can visit their doctors, have insurance for medications and have access to important care,” she added.
In 2012, when U.S. Supreme Court ruling gave states the authority to reject or implement Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval chose to expand.
The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families said, as a result, the rate of uninsured women in Nevada decreased by 13 percent.
Additionally, the center noted that uninsured rate in rural communities in Nevada went from 42 percent in 2008-2009 to 14 percent in 2015-2016.
While there is a sense of uncertainty at a federal level, Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen said state lawmakers took steps in the past legislative session to secure some health protections.
“We have to look out for Nevadans while the Affordable Care Act is under attack at the federal level,” said Cohen, who chaired the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services.
Some of the legislation passed and signed into law during the 2019 session:
- Assembly Bill 170: requires health insurance providers to provide health benefit plans regardless of health status or pre-existing condition — the bill codifies an Affordable Care Act mandate.
- Assembly Bill 469: reins in surprise medical billing, which allows out-of-network health care providers to gouge patients in need of emergency care.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 10: creates a study to assess feasibility of a state-based public health care insurance option.
“All of these bills combined will not only help protect health care for Nevadans, but it will make it more affordable,” Cohen added.