’We cannot afford to lose the Affordable Care Act’: Wolf, Casey lead health care rally

    Matt Jennings speaks at a August 28 rally in the Capitol to raise awareness of threats to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

    It’s déjà vu all over again for Obamacare advocates.

    Seizing on a string of executive actions by President Donald Trump, as well as a slowly advancing lawsuit to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Democratic lawmakers and health care advocates spoke Wednesday to rally support for the nearly decade-old law.

    “My first thought getting the call to speak today was, ‘We’re doing this again?’” Matt Yarnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, said at the Capitol rally Wednesday.

    For his first executive action as president, Trump issued a memo to federal regulatory agencies ordering them “to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the [ACA], and prepare to afford the States more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market.”

    The order followed up on a long-standing Republican goal to repeal the ACA, which they see as an example of government overreach.

    Gov. Tom Wolf, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale all attended the event. They were joined by the advocacy group Protect Our Care, which is currently embarked on a bus tour.

    “We cannot afford to lose the Affordable Care Act,” Wolf said.

    Passed in 2010 and implemented in 2013, the ACA set up a mandate — since repealed as part of the 2017 GOP tax bill — that every single adult have health insurance or pay a fee. 

    The law, a large part of former President Barack Obama’s legacy, also prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals for pre-existing conditions, expands Medicaid eligibility, and sets up regulations on what coverage must be included in insurance plans.

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    Congressional Republicans have made at least 70 unsuccessful tries to repeal the law, according to Newsweek. Most famously, they failed in the summer of 2017 when the late U.S.  Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voted no during a late-night vote.

    In 2018, a Texas federal judge found the whole act unconstitutional, throwing into question millions of Americans’ health care. The lawsuit was brought by the Texas attorney general in conjunction with 17 other Republican-led states.

    The suit is on appeal to a federal circuit court. The Trump administration has declined to defend the law, even asking the court to strike the act down

    In the administration’s stead, the majority-Democrat U.S. House of Representatives has stepped in to defend the law. They join an ongoing defense mounted by Democratic attorneys general.

    Wolf made expanding Medicaid, known in Pennsylvania as Medical Assistance, a top administration priority. He increased eligibility in 2015.

    Since then, 720,000 people have gained health coverage via Medicaid expansion, according to the Wolf administration. Another 380,000 gained coverage through other provisions of the ACA, such as allowing kids to stay on their parents plans until 26.

    If the law is struck down in whole, all these provisions would go out the window.

    “To go back is literally insane,” DePasquale said.

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