New Challenges to Health Care Law Bring Strong Rebuke from Nevada’s State, Federal Elected Officials

The Department of Justice says it will not defend the Affordable Care Act in court. President Donald Trump is again leaning on congressional Republicans to come up with a suitable replacement to the law. In Nevada, where Obamacare is more popular than not, Democratic state and federal politicians are crying foul.

If the president and Republican attorneys general fighting the law get their way, what would happen in Nevada? Without a replacement plan, thousands would lose insurance. Estimates range from the hundreds of thousands into the millions.

Gov. Steve Sisolak came out forcefully against the Trump administration’s stance, saying up to 660,000 Nevadans could lose insurance. Posting on Twitter, Sisolak said dismantling the Affordable Care Act would have “disastrous and sweeping consequences for Nevada’s entire health care system and leave hundreds of thousands of Nevadans twisting in the wind.”

While the figure varies, analysts agree a substantial portion of the state’s population could become uninsured.

That’s not good for anyone.

A large uninsured populace doesn’t just raise costs for the patients. Health care providers eat billions in costs when uninsured patients need emergency care, and taxpayers spend billions on public health clinics and safety net hospital payments.

The Justice Department, in remarks to an appeals court in New Orleans, opined that the Affordable Care Act should be struck down. The department agreed with a federal district judge in Texas who struck the law down in December.

The basis of the lawsuit is Congress’ removal of the individual mandate — the penalty for remaining uninsured — last year renders the rest of the law invalid.

U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller in the midterm elections, released a statement soon after the DOJ filed its brief saying she would fight to protect health care provisions.

“We cannot allow the Trump administration to invalidate our nation’s health care law,” she said in the statement. “This dangerous decision goes above and beyond stripping coverage protections for those with pre-existing conditions and could gut ACA’s Medicaid expansion along with tax credits that allow hundreds of thousands of Nevadans to have access to affordable coverage.”

U.S. Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, both D-Nev., criticized the president in releases.

“The Trump administration is still hellbent on repealing the Affordable Care Act and everything it protects,” Lee said in her statement. “They aren’t fooling anyone — this is an attempt to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, gut Nevada’s Medicaid expansion, kick young people under 26 from their parent’s insurance, and make it harder to seek mental health treatment.”

Horsford’s statements were similar and said he would continue to fight to ensure the provisions weren’t overturned.

“I will fight the Trump administration’s latest attempt to raise health care costs, eliminate Nevada’s Medicaid expansion, and allow insurance companies to discriminate against 1.2 million Nevadans with pre-existing conditions” he said.

Two other Nevada Democrats, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, took to Twitter. Titus posted that legislators would fight the repeal effort in court, and Cortez Masto promised to fight the measure and criticized the timing of the court filing.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, with the backing of Sisolak, has waded into the case, joining an appeal of the district judge’s ruling with numerous other states, including California and New Jersey.

“With this Texas ruling, the health care of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans hangs in the balance,” Ford said in a statement. “Governor Sisolak and I will use all legal options to ensure all Nevadans have accessible, affordable health care, including joining this important litigation.”

Concerns about the law’s repeal might be moot if Republicans come up with a better plan. But progress on that front is chaotic, and in the past, hasn’t yielded a plan on which GOP senators can agree.

There has been movement on the legislative front in Nevada, though.

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has sponsored a bill that would codify the ACA’s protection for pre-existing conditions into state law.

In a presentation on the bill, the committee chairwoman, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, said, “I believe deeply that if we should unfortunately lose the coverage that we currently have at the national level making sure that these protections are in place, that we need to make sure that, at least in Nevada, we will not discriminate against anyone based on their health status.”

The popularity of parts of the ACA was tracked in Nevada during the 2018 midterms.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care-focused nonprofit, found that 68 percent of Nevada voters said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who wanted to maintain protections for pre-existing conditions.

An NBC and Marist College Poll found that a quarter of voters ranked health care as the most important issue going into the race.


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