Is health care coverage for pre-existing conditions in jeopardy?

By:  Joel Connelly
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

No provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, aka. "Obamacare," has enjoyed greater public support than its requirement that health insurers not discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.


About 130 million Americans under 65 have such a condition, ranging from asthma to eating disorders to diabetes to vertigo.


Yet, the Trump Administration announced last month that the U.S. Department of Justice will not defend the Affordable Care Act's pre-existing condition protections in a federal legal challenge brought by Republican attorneys general seeking to wipe out all of Obamacare.


Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, along with interests ranging from the American Hospital Association to the American Cancer Society, have filed briefs in support of the provision.


"Three million Washingtonians could be at risk," Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told a briefing at Virginia Mason Hospital on Monday.


Ex-King County Executive Ron Sims, who chairs the Washington Health Benefits Exchange, warned of what he called "a return to a condition where your health insurance depends on the status of your health."


"Health insurance is meant to help people who are healthy and people who are sick," Sims added.


There is rising public concern over a potential gutting of the Affordable Care Act.


The latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found a majority of Democrats, Independents AND Republicans agreed it is "very important" to protect the provision of law that protects people with pre-existing conditions.


A total of 65 percent said it is "the single most important issue" or "very important" in deciding who to vote for in this year's mid-term elections.


Republicans are saying they support coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.


"Everyone I know in the Senate -- everybody -- is in favor of maintaining coverage for pre-existing conditions. There is no difference of opinion about that whatever," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last month.


Yet, 20 Republican-led states are trying to eliminate the Affordable Care Act altogether.


The Trump Administration has refused to defend two provisions. One prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage based on a person's medical history. The second prohibits charging more for coverage because of a person's medical history.


All 49 Democrats in the U.S. Senate sent a letter to President Trump last week, protesting the administration's abrogation of legal responsibilities to defend the law.


They are also planning a resolution to have the Senate join in the law's legal defense. The House Republican leadership used a similar gambit and spent $3 million of taxpayers' money defending the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.


"Four out of every 10 people in America have these issues," said Cantwell.