Attorney General Andy Beshear announced today that he will oppose a federal judge’s Dec. 14 ruling that would eliminate the ACA in Kentucky, stripping away key benefits for people with pre-existing conditions, eliminating seniors’ prescription drug discounts and allowing companies to charge women and seniors more for their coverage.
Beshear and a group of attorneys general have been battling the federal case – Texas et al. v. United States, et al – over the last year to protect health care nationwide. United States District Judge Reed O’Conner ruled Dec. 14 that the ACA is unconstitutional because recent federal action eliminated the measure’s penalty for failing to purchase health insurance – known as the individual mandate.
Beshear said the ruling will have devastating effects on Kentucky, and could impact the health care of over 1.3 million Kentuckians.
“This ruling would immediately eliminate coverage for 500,000 Kentuckians on Expanded Medicaid, and on the private insurance side would return Kentucky to a time when insurance companies could simply refuse coverage for Kentuckians based on pre-existing conditions, age and even gender,” Beshear said. “With Kentuckians facing so many needs, we cannot allow a Texas court to strip coverage away from our Kentucky families.”
Beshear identified 10 key harms to Kentuckians if the ruling is not overturned:
· No mandatory coverage for preexisting conditions. It’s estimated that 50 percent of Kentuckians under the age of 65 suffer from a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies would be able to deny coverage to all of these individuals, and, Beshear said, “cancel coverage when a Kentuckian gets sick.”
· Elimination of Expanded Medicaid. The ruling would wipe out Medicaid expansion entirely, which has provided coverage to more than 500,000 Kentuckians. “These families would lose coverage, and the state would lose nearly $50 billion in funding, which cycles through Kentucky’s economy, resulting in a loss of tens of thousands of health care and related jobs,” Beshear said.
· Children under the age of 26 would not be able to remain on their parents’ insurance plans. The ACA requires insurance companies to let children under the age of 26 remain on their parents’ insurance plans. Those protections would be gone, leaving Kentucky families at risk. This provision is among the most popular in the law, Beshear said, because “it allows parents to cover their children during their college and early working years.”
· Seniors would have to pay more for prescription drugs. The ACA closed the so-called “donut hole” or coverage gap in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage over time. Without the ACA, seniors would be forced to incur thousands of dollars in additional prescription drug costs.
· Women would once again be charged more than men. The ACA eliminated gender discrimination in health care. Without the ACA, insurance companies can charge women more than they can charge men for health care, solely based on their gender.
· Guaranteed pregnancy coverage would be eliminated. Before the ACA, Beshear said it was virtually impossible to access quality pregnancy coverage in the private market. “Insurers would charge astronomical sums for special, separate policies that imposed lengthy waiting periods before they even went into effect,” he said. “The result was that women didn’t get vital prenatal care, and their babies were more likely to be born too early and suffer from preventable complications.”
· Substance Use Disorder Treatment would no longer be a required benefit. The ACA has been a vital tool to help Kentucky fight the opioid epidemic because the law requires insurance plans to cover substance abuse treatment on par with other services. The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky reported a 740 percent increase in substance abuse services for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries, and a 400 percent increase in the number of Kentuckians with traditional Medicaid receiving substance abuse treatment from 2014 to 2016.
· Rural hospitals would suffer. Studies have repeatedly shown that rural hospitals are more likely to close in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Kentucky hospitals have received billions from Medicaid expansion, and without that critical funding, Beshear said many would find themselves in dire financial straits, jeopardizing thousands of good-paying jobs in the neediest areas of the state.
· Children would lose access to no-cost immunizations and well-child visits. The ACA guarantees that parents can ensure their children receive life-saving immunizations free of charge. Those protections would be gone, and parents would have to pay staggeringly high sums for vaccines once again, Beshear said.
· Older Kentuckians would be charged vastly more than younger ones. The ACA guarantees that older Kentuckians can never be charged more than three times as much as younger ones for health insurance. Those protections would be eliminated, making it virtually certain that insurance costs for older Kentuckians, particularly those in the 55-64 age range, would skyrocket, Beshear said, “making insurance essentially unavailable to older hard-working Kentuckians whose jobs don’t provide it.”
Beshear said health care is vital for Kentuckians in a state that leads the nation in many types of cancer. The ACA provides access to colon cancer screenings, mammograms and other vital cancer detections, and without them, Beshear said, the lives of Kentuckians would be put at risk.
“Kentuckians who face numerous health issues are beginning to move the needle on their personal health and the state’s overall well-being through these screenings that have provided lifesaving measures for thousands of Kentuckians,” Beshear said. “To do away with these, is this the fate we want for our people?”
Beshear is joined by attorneys general in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
More than 25 organizations have filed court documents in support of Beshear and the group of attorneys general fighting for health care nationwide. These organizations include the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Hospital Association, AARP, Small Business Majority Foundation and the American Health Insurance Plans.
In the coming days, the group of AGs will take the necessary legal actions to appeal the Texas ruling. Beshear said his ultimate goal is for the United State Supreme Court to rule on the matter.
The parties seeking to dismantle the ACA include attorneys general in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and governors of Maine and Mississippi.