October 23, 2020

Shaheen, Hassan to Attorney General William Barr: Stop Efforts to Gut the Affordable Care Act in Court

As Supreme Court ACA Hearing Approaches and Republicans Rush Supreme Court Nomination Process, Democratic Lawmakers Highlight How an ACA Repeal Can Impact Health Coverage for Americans Who Contract COVID-19.

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), along with 18 Senators, sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr, urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to rescind its support of the Supreme Court lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the letter, the Senators highlight how health insurance protections for millions of Americans are at stake in light of the current Supreme Court nomination fight and the ways in which health insurers could discriminate against millions more people who contract COVID-19 if the pre-existing protections in the ACA are gutted.

 

"We urge the Department of Justice to immediately rescind its support of the lawsuit in California v. Texas asking the Supreme Court to declare the ACA unconstitutional and invalidate the law in its entirety," wrote the Senators. "Passed in 2010, the ACA dramatically expanded the number of Americans with health insurance. Destroying this progress and ripping away critical protections is cruel on its face. Looking to do so in the midst of a nearly unprecedented public health emergency—a COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed over 220,000 American lives and infected over 8 million people—is especially unconscionable."

 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in California v. Texas on November 10, 2020. Among critical provisions, the ACA has made it illegal for insurance companies to deny insurance coverage for the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. Before the ACA became law, insurers could exclude coverage of care associated with pre-existing conditions; charge higher health premiums based on a person's health status or gender; limit certain benefits like mental health treatment, prescription drugs, or maternity care associated with pre-existing conditions; and impose lifetime or annual caps on benefits. Health experts warn that, without the ACA, health insurers could classify COVID-19 as a pre-existing condition and deny COVID-19 survivors health insurance – adding millions more people to the previously existing 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.

 

Despite the essential protections for Americans under the ACA and the growing number of Americans contracting COVID-19, the Department of Justice is currently in court seeking to invalidate the ACA while President Trump is working to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat with his nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in time for the November 10 arguments. Barrett's nomination is a key component of the president's self-stated goal of "terminating" the ACA. Senator Shaheen previously led all 47 Senate Democrats on a Senate resolution that would call on the DOJ to reverse its decision to argue in favor of U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling that would strike down the health care law.

 

The letter, which was led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), was also signed by Ed Markey (D-MA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

 

The letter can be read in full here.

 

Earlier this week, Shaheen and a group of Senators wrote to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of the Treasury requesting an analysis of how the repeal of the ACA would affect health care coverage in the United States, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

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