On the same day a federal appeals court panel in New Orleans considered whether a Texas judge was correct in ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey issued a ringing defense of the law Tuesday, arguing that if it is striken, thousands of Pennsylvanians would lose health care coverage.
Noting that the ongoing legal skirmishing has not gotten the same attention as the failed repeal efforts by Congress in 2017, Casey said it’s “every bit as consequential as repeal, yet few Americans are aware of it.”
The Trump administration has gotten behind the ruling by the judge, which stated that the whole law is unconstitutional due to its mandate that Americans must purchase health insurance. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law, also known as “Obamacare,” in 2012. If the federal appeals court agrees with the judge’s ruling, it will likely make its way back to the high court next year.
“Ripping away care is what this lawsuit is about,” Casey said. He criticized Republicans for not having outlined a replacement plan if the Affordable Care Act falls, and said their efforts were “totally irresponsible.”
Casey made his comments in a conference call along with Antoinette Kraus, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, an advocacy group dedicated to expanding health care coverage in the commonwealth. The group contends that if the Affordable Care Act is taken off the books, more than 800,000 Pennsylvania residents would lose coverage, including 89,000 young adults who get coverage through their parents’ plans until age 26. The group also asserts that an additional 800,000 Pennsylvanians who gained health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion would lose it, including residents struggling with opioid addiction. Rural hospitals in the state, many of which are struggling, would lose close to $2 billion if Medicaid coverage is retracted.
“This impacts all of us,” Kraus said. “Too much is at stake.”
While Casey didn’t hold his fire when it came to his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, he also criticized his fellow Democrats, saying they have not done enough to stop efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act. While Casey was mostly unsparing in his criticism of Republicans throughout the lunchtime conference call, he did say that he would work with members of the GOP if they worked to lower prescription drug costs and improve the nine-year-old Affordable Care Act.
“I’m a reasonable person, but I get unreasonable when they allow this to happen,” he said.