Court Set to Decide Fate of Affordable Care Act – Cantwell Defends Coverage for Millions of Washingtonians with Pre-Existing Conditions

Senator releases new report showing more than 867,000 King County residents, 3 million Washingtonians under the age of 65 live with a pre-existing health condition; Lawsuit by state attorneys general threatens to undermine Pacific Northwest health care system, critical health coverage for millions of Americans

SEATTLE – One week before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hears oral arguments in a lawsuit that could eliminate the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene (WA-01), health care providers, and local patient advocates to defend the ACA and the millions of Washingtonians with pre-existing conditions protected under the law. 

“The moment is here for all of us to stand up and advocate for health care and make sure that this law is not struck down and that the United States Congress is allowed to continue to fight for great access to health care policy,” Cantwell said at today’s event. 

More than three million Washingtonians under the age of 65 live with a pre-existing health condition, which can include common conditions ranging from allergies, asthma, and high blood pressure to cancer and diabetes. More than 385,000 of those with pre-existing conditions are children under the age of 18. 

The Affordable Care Act outlawed insurance company discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, meaning that insurance companies cannot deny coverage to people or charge them more because they have a pre-existing condition. However, in December 2018, a U.S. District Court Judge in Texas declared the entire ACA unconstitutional. 

Earlier this year, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice announced it would no longer defend the Affordable Care Act in court and filed a brief with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals asking the court to invalidate the entirety of the law. 

“Next week, as oral arguments start in this case, we must make sure that we’re doing all that we can to articulate and to get the Senate to act to defend the Affordable Care Act so that we can show the great economic impact to our region if the health care law is not continued,” Senator Cantwell said today. 

This attempt to nullify the ACA could have devastating effects in Washington and throughout the country. Three million Washingtonians, and nearly 130 million Americans nationwide, have pre-existing medical conditions and could be charged more or locked out of coverage if the law is struck down – even if they get health insurance through their employers. 

Invalidating the ACA could also kick 50,000 Washingtonians under the age of 26 off their parents’ health care plans, allow insurance companies to charge women more than men, allow for an “age tax” on people over 50, and put millions more at risk of facing coverage lock-out periods, exclusions, or other forms of insurance discrimination. 

“These are the faces of Washingtonians who will be impacted if the health care law is struck down in a court cast that is now going to be heard starting next week,” Cantwell said about the patient advocates in the room. 

At the event, Senator Cantwell also released a report on the threats to health care coverage for the millions of Washingtonians under the age of 65, including more than 867,000 in King County alone, living with a pre-existing health care condition. 

Since President Trump’s election, Senator Cantwell has fought back against his efforts to undermine health care coverage for millions of Americans. In June of 2017, Senator Cantwell spoke on the Senate floor to condemn Republican efforts to cut billions of dollars from Medicaid. In July of 2017, she called out Republican efforts to authorize “junk” health insurance plans without coverage for essential health benefits, like hospital stays or prescription drugs. In September of 2017, Cantwell fought back against a plan to take billions of dollars from Washington state, which could have devastated coverage for hundreds of thousands of children throughout the state. Last June, Senator Cantwell once again called on the Trump administration to abandon its efforts to authorize “junk” plans and joined the entire Senate Democratic caucus to condemn President Trump’s refusal to stand with patients across the country and defend health care protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. 

Read Senator Cantwell’s report on health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions HERE.

Video from Senator Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE, and audio can be found HERE.