Let’s not turn back the clock on affordable health care in Pa. | Opinion

January 15, 2020 6:30 am

Gov. Tom Wolf (L) and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica K. Altman (R) urge state residents without insurance to sign up for health coverage. The open enrollment window for the federal Affordable Care Act closes on Dec. 15. They made their remarks during a news conference at the state Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

By Frank Dermody

When people don’t have health insurance – especially people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure or even pregnancy (yes, that counts) – they skip vital care, go into debt or even bankruptcy to pay bills, or simply die.

This was much more common in the days before the Affordable Care Act, and some well-heeled special interests want to turn back the clock.

Extremists all over the country are attacking Americans’ insurance coverage and asking judges to undo the law that saved lives, supported rural and urban hospitals, and protected jobs for the last 10 years.

Recently, one federal judge upheld a decision wiping out the part of the law requiring people to have insurance coverage. Now the question is before the Supreme Court.

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If this attack succeeds in ending affordable care, many people will be forced to pay much more or lose their coverage altogether. Insurance companies would be able to simply refuse to insure people with pre-existing health issues – even when those people already had coverage.

If that happens people will die. Families will go bankrupt. More hospitals and the jobs they support will disappear.

We can’t let it happen. That’s why House Democrats support a Plan For Pennsylvania that preserves coverage for pre-existing conditions even if the Affordable Care Act goes away.

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We believe you and your loved ones should be able to see a doctor when you need to, and be able to afford it. You should be able to manage your own care. Your privacy should be protected.

And when you have coverage, you and your pre-existing condition shouldn’t ever lose that coverage to satisfy an insurance company’s profit projection.

This matters to you.

Even if you’re a fully healthy person who “doesn’t need” healthcare coverage, how do you know what the future holds? Will you never have an illness, be injured, or get old?

Even if you’re a genetic marvel, you’re still paying, because people who can’t afford health care are going to skip going to the doctor for a $75 office visit and wait until they need a $7,500 emergency room visit. Or the untreated person is spreading germs next to you in a theater or restaurant.

When people can’t pay for their care, then our hospitals have to lean on taxpayers or just go out of business – especially in poor rural and urban zones. Medical professionals leave and never come back. Communities end up without enough doctors to deliver babies, heal work-related injuries, or offer mental health care.

A decade ago, a new law changed American health care for the better. It could be working even better if the law wasn’t under endless legal attack in the courts.

We won’t have a better healthcare system by destroying the best part of the current system. We won’t get better health care by taking away coverage from patients with pre-existing conditions.

You can help. House Democrats are backing a bill to protect those with pre-existing conditions. Contact your lawmaker and tell them we need to pass Rep. Peter Schweyer’s, D-Lehigh, bill (HB1013) to protect Pennsylvanians from losing their care.

State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, is the Democratic floor leader in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He writes from Harrisburg. 

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