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Thursday
Oct182018

Who will really protect people with pre-existing conditions?

Voter beware! Don’t believe all the candidates’ claims

With the midterm elections just weeks away, candidates on both sides of the aisle are rolling out campaign ads claiming to support protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But that doesn’t mean that the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and Medicare are safe. As the New York Times reported this week:

"For months, Democratic candidates have been running hard on health care, while Republicans have said little about it. In a sign of the issue’s potency, Republicans are now playing defense, releasing a wave of ads promising they will preserve protections for Americans with pre-existing health conditions.

The ads omit the fact that the protections are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act and that the Republican Party has worked unceasingly to repeal the law, through legislation and lawsuits.

Republicans in Congress have recently come forward with limited legislative proposals to ensure some pre-existing conditions protections if the health law is overturned. One, a House resolution, would have no force of law, even if adopted. The other would contain a significant loophole: Insurers would have to cover those with pre-existing illnesses, but would not have to cover care for those particular illnesses." [emphasis ours]

In Missouri, for example, Attorney General Josh Hawley (R-MO) has been running ads touting his support for people with pre-existing conditions even as he has signed the state onto the lawsuit that would gut them. As the Times reports, “If his lawsuit invalidates the entire health care law, it would return the country to a time when people with prior illness sometimes couldn’t buy coverage at all. Republicans could pass a law restoring Obamacare’s consumer protections, but Mr. Hawley has not yet explicitly endorsed such a strategy.”

Hawley’s ad—called “ridiculously dishonest” in the Washington Post—and those of other candidates raise questions about what to make of so many competing claims this year and how health care advocates can speak up for truth about the ACA.

How to tell which candidates will protect people with pre-ex conditions?

Last week, our allies at Families USA rolled out a simple three-part test to cut through the noise:

Questions 1 and 3 are critical because none of the replacement proposals put forward by the ACA’s opponents have ever come close to providing the full consumer protections guaranteed under current law. In fact, these replacement plans would once again makerape and domestic violence pre-existing conditions.

Question 2 gets to the heart of the Trump administration’s efforts to impose Trumpcare by executive fiat. The full-year “junk” plans allowed under a new Trump rule are not required to cover essential health benefits and they can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, charge limitless out-of-pocket expenses and reinstate annual and lifetime coverage caps. These plans are coming on the market this month, and we’ve urged consumers to carefully compare them with the comprehensive ACA marketplace plans for which open enrollment starts Nov. 1.

A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis from April found that none of these junk plans cover maternity care and only 29% cover prescription drugs. Kaiser’s analysis concluded that encouraging healthy people to switch to these junk plans “would raise the cost of coverage for people with health conditions who remain in the ACA-compliant market.”

Yet the Senate voted 50-50 last week to uphold these junk plans, with many of the senators who claim to support people with pre-existing conditions nevertheless voting to drive up the cost of health care coverage for those conditions.

With so many candidates running and so many health care issues at stake in federal, state, and local races, Families USA has pulled together a nonpartisan toolkit to help evaluate candidate claims.

Meanwhile, this week Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to take up another ACA repeal effort in 2019 if conservatives retain control of both chambers. In a separate interview, he also confirmed what we have long predicted: that conservatives hope to use the massive deficits triggered by their tax bill—“a 77 percent increase from fiscal 2015, when McConnell became majority leader”—as a reason to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. McConnell called the deficit “disappointing” but “not a Republican problem” before tarring public health and anti-poverty measures as the “real drivers of the debt.”

More Community Conversations with Black Women's Health Imperative

The Black Women's Health Imperative continues its Real Talk Real Women community conversation series, this time with events coming up in Atlanta and Maryland. The Atlanta event will take place on Oct. 22, 7 PM at the Gathering Spot, and will be focused on galvanizing black women voters ahead of the crucial midterm elections. The Maryland event will at the Rising Sun First Baptist Church in Gwynn Oak at 2 PM on Nov. 3, and will feature a discussion on health topics relevant to Black women today. For more information, check out the Facebook event page for the Atlanta event here, and for the Maryland event here

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