HARTFORD, CT — Jonathan Miller, a cystic fibrosis patient who has benefitted from the Affordable Care Act, can’t believe he continues to have to defend it.
“I’m tired of defending myself. I’m tired of having to justify my life, my existence,” Miller said.
He said the law has literally saved his life in ways that are hard to measure and count.
Miller, who spoke at U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s Legislative Office Building press conference Monday, said he’s also angry they “have to come out again and say please don’t kills us.”
Without affordable coverage for pre-existing conditions, Miller and millions of other Americans might run out of money for medical care and die. It’s not hyperbole.
Murphy, who is running for re-election to a second term, said Americans “revolted against the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act” after they won re-election in 2016. “Ultimately their repeal effort failed by one vote in the United States Senate.”
In December 2017, Congress repealed the individual mandate, which requires everyone to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. In February, Texas and 19 other Republican-led states brought a federal complaint arguing that the ACA’s individual mandate would be an unconstitutional exercise of federal power without the tax penalty, which was zeroed out as part of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Now, the Trump administration’s U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act in court and says it’s “unconstitutional” for them to protect people with pre-existing conditions.
“If the administration is successful the protections for people with pre-existing conditions will be eliminated,” Murphy said Monday. “Meaning we go back to the days in which people who are sick or who have ever been sick will be priced out of insurance.”
He said since the ACA went into effect the number of personal bankruptcies has been cut in half.
“There is one reason for that. People do not go bankrupt any longer because of medical costs,” Murphy said.
Nancy Burton, a nurse midwife and chair of the board of directors for the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut, said she recently read a study that found cancer patients who go bankrupt are 80 percent more likely to die than patients who don’t go bankrupt.
“We’re not just talking about financial hardship here — we’re talking about life and death,” Burton said. “People don’t like to think of ourselves as a country that allows people to die or be unnecessarily disabled because of lack of money. People don’t think it really happens, but it does.”
Coverage of pre-existing conditions is by far the most popular part of the Affordable Care Act.
Even Republicans seeking to challenge Murphy seem to be struggling with the idea of eliminating coverage for pre-existing conditions.
Matthew Corey, the endorsed Republican running for the opportunity to challenge Murphy, says on his campaign website that there shouldn’t be any discrimination for pre-existing conditions in the health insurance exchanges.
“Let the free market compete in these exchanges so the American people can get the best rates,” Corey says on his website. “We also need to create large pools so individuals can get the best rates available. This should include creating policies to cater to individual needs to get more people to sign up.”
Branford Republican Dominic Rapini is also running for the Republican nomination to challenge Murphy.
“The Attorney General swore on oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act rendered ACA unconstitutional and the Justice Department has a duty to not defend it,” Rapini said last week. “The courts will have the ultimate say, but it’s clear that Obamacare has been a disaster and was always the wrong approach to making health care affordable. It’s time to end this socialist experiment and create a health care system that protects pre-existing conditions and puts doctors and patients back in charge.”
Burton said she doesn’t think denying people access to health insurance because they have a pre-existing condition is “who we want to be as a people, as a country.”
She said removal of coverage for pre-existing conditions is “one of the cruelest things I’ve seen happen.”
And it could happen to anyone.
Murphy said the U.S. Supreme Court already upheld the constitutionality of the individual mandate in 2012. He said he thinks the argument that it’s unconstitutional is “thin.” However, if they succeed and the pre-existing condition provision is gone, then no insurance company would offer a plan to Miller or anyone like him.