As Congressional Republicans repeatedly vote to weaken coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, Rhode Island’s Senators work to ensure that people with preexisting health conditions can get and keep health insurance; strengthen protections for all patients; and help lower health care costs

CRANSTON, RI – As Republicans sue in federal court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and with it protections for people with preexisting medical conditions that previously could be denied insurance coverage – and Senate Republican leaders declared their intent to again try and repeal the ACA, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are vowing to defend and uphold the law and prevent people with preexisting conditions from losing their care.  Rhode Island’s Senators say that no one with a preexisting condition can or should be denied affordable health coverage.

On, Thursday, October 18, 2018, Reed and Whitehouse joined with officials from the Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP) to discuss the latest efforts to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

To Watch footage: https://www.facebook.com/SenJackReed/videos/168084007469622/

“I strongly oppose repealing the ACA and rolling back protections for people with preexisting conditions.  I will vote like my life depends on it because the fact is: millions of Americans will suffer if Republicans gut the ACA.  Nobody should be denied the opportunity to get health insurance and it’s wrong for the Trump Administration to undermine life-saving protections in the law for political gain,” said Senator Reed.  “I will continue working to stop the Obamacare sabotage and ensure that all Americans have choices when it comes to affordable, meaningful health care coverage.”

“Republicans and President Trump aren’t done gunning for the health care law, and now they’re coming for Medicare and Medicaid.  They blew a $2 trillion hole in the budget with their massive tax cut bill for the rich; now they want to take basic health care away from millions of Americans to pay for it,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Last year’s ACA repeal debate showed us that every voice matters.  I am proud to stand with Senator Reed, CCAP, and other great advocates to fight to keep the health coverage Rhode Island families rely on.”

According to a 2016 estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a quarter of adults under age 65 — about 52 million people, including 164,000 Rhode Islanders — have a pre-existing health condition that very likely would have prevented them from purchasing individual health insurance under the pre-ACA rules.

Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a Reed and Whitehouse-backed resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) that would have prevented the extension and expansion of so-called “junk insurance” plans.

These plans allow insurers to deny or charge people more based on their health status; are not required to cover essential health services, like prescription drugs; and can charge older people more than three times what they charge a younger person for the same coverage.  Previously these policies were intended as “bridge” coverage to provide temporary insurance for no more than three months, but the Trump Administration is encouraging these non-ACA compliant plans to try to siphon off healthier people and undermine and circumvent the Affordable Care Act.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc. (ACS CAN) notes that this approach to expanding junk insurance plans could divide the insurance market and weaken critical patient protections.  By attracting younger, healthier individuals to these bare bones plans, the rule will likely upend risk pools that keep costs down for older and sicker individuals.  By splitting the market, people who need comprehensive health insurance will likely find it far more expensive and potentially out of reach.

The case of Texas v. United States, a federal lawsuit supported by many Congressional Republicans that threatens to take away protections for millions of people with preexisting conditions, is currently making its way through the courts and is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The suit was filed by a group of 20 Republican attorneys general, all from states Donald Trump won during the 2016 Presidential election.

The Trump Administration surprised experts by requesting that the Texas v. United States judge strike the ACA’s preexisting conditions coverage requirement as of January 1, 2019.

Judge Reed O’Connor heard oral arguments in Texas v. United States on September 5, and a ruling could come any day, after which the case likely would be referred to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The losing side of that decision would then likely petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case, which could occur this session.