Great Falls Tribune: Tester, others, decry move to kill Affordable Care Act

by Phil Drake

Sen. Jon Tester was joined by others in criticizing a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, claiming such a decision could strip health care coverage from 112,000 Montanans.

“This reckless effort by national Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act isn’t small potatoes – a decision to strike down the law would destroy the health care system as we know it, jeopardizing lives, our economy, and the rural Montana hospitals that keep our communities safe,” Tester, D-Mont., said Tuesday in an email.

The court is not expected to kill the decade-old ACA in the case, California v. Texas, and seemed likely to leave the bulk of the law intact, some observers of Tuesday’s court discussion reported. A decision is expected by late spring.

Tester said the ACA, commonly called “Obamacare,” isn’t perfect, “but it provides critical protections for Montanans with pre-existing conditions and the care they depend on to stay healthy.”

“We’ve got to make health care more accessible and more affordable – not leave millions out to dry in the middle of a national public health crisis,” he said.

Tester said he led his Senate colleagues in demanding the Department of Justice defend the ACA as existing law and halt efforts to repeal it in the midst of a surge in cases in a pandemic.

Tester said 112,000 Montanans could lose coverage, including 85,000 residents enrolled through Medicaid expansion and 7,000 Montanans under the age of 26 who have stayed on their parents’ health coverage.

Opponents of the ACA have called for the law to be repealed. Republicans want to scale back the government’s support for health care, the Associated Press reported. They would make deep cuts to Medicaid financing, and leave the ACA’s insurance markets as a state option. Protections for people with pre-existing conditions could be eroded under new rules.

State Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, and Fairfield resident Judy Shannon joined the advocacy group Protect Our Care Montana on Tuesday to discuss the ACA lawsuit.

Dunwell noted the state added 1,100 new COVID-19 cases earlier in the day.

“This is an unprecedented global health crisis as this pandemic continues, and it’s just not OK to be considering dismantling the Affordable Care Act,” she said.

Shannon said she is “one of the 425,000 people in Montana (who) has a pre-existing illness.”

She said at 38, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and denied coverage through a private insurance company because she had a pre-existing condition.

“After the Affordable Care Act came in, it was … like a miracle that they would cover a pre-existing illness and they would not discriminate against me… We need to save our Affordable Care Act,” she said in a news release.