HARTFORD, CT — Democratic lawmakers who co-chair the Insurance and Real Estate Committee said Tuesday there’s a very real possibility the Affordable Care Act could be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
There’s a concern among Democrats that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death means the law will be struck down and a Republican-controlled Congress won’t replace it. The ACA allows anyone with a pre-existing condition to purchase health insurance through a state or federal marketplace and it requires coverage of certain essential benefits.
“I know that the ACA has sort of become a meme to people, but it’s important for us to remember it’s not about a meme. It’s not about a political talking point, it’s not about a caricature, it’s about life and death,” Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said during a press conference on the Capitol steps.
Scanlon said voters should remember that health care is on the ballot in November.
Sen. Kevin Kelly, the ranking Republican on the committee, wasn’t at the press conference but was quick to remind his colleagues that health care policy is bipartisan in Connecticut.
“We believe in preserving essential rights, protecting people with pre-existing conditions and addressing health equity,” Kelly said. “Unlike the dysfunction in Washington, Republicans in Connecticut have also shown real solutions and ideas to make health care more accessible and affordable for all people. Bipartisanship in Connecticut has made our state a leader in protecting people with pre-existing conditions, expanding women’s health care coverage, banning prescription drug price-gouging and stopping surprise medical bills, but clearly more must be done.”
Advocates point out there’s only so much Connecticut lawmakers of both parties can do.
“There are too many people in Connecticut whose lives are on the line,” Lynne Ide, director of program and policy at the Universal Healthcare Foundation, said.
She said if the health insurance exchange goes away and the federal subsidies go away, “people will be subject to the vagaries of the private market.”
Dr. Michael Baldwin said 220,000 Connecticut residents who get their insurance through the exchange could lose it if the federal law is struck down.
“If we lose health insurance for 220,000 residents in our state, that will affect every one of us,” Baldwin said.
However, Ide pointed out that it’s much worse than 220,000.
She said despite legislative attempts to codify elements of the ACA like the essential health benefits and pre-existing conditions, “those do not extend to all the hundreds of thousands of people in Connecticut who are in self-insured plans.”
A Connecticut law protecting pre-existing conditions for insurance policies was on the books before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.
Connecticut’s health insurance law — Chapter 7, Section 38a-476, already states that “no individual health insurance plan or insurance arrangement shall impose a pre-existing conditions provision on any individual.”
But that pre-existing coverage protection only applies to fully insured plans in the state.
In Connecticut there are 2.21 million privately insured residents. Of those, about 1.85 million get their insurance from large group plans, 131,000 have individual plans, and 235,000 people are covered under small group plans. The Insurance Department doesn’t regulate the large group market, where the terms of employee benefits are set by employers.
So of those 2.21 million privately insured residents, only the 366,000 with individual plans or who are covered under small group plans are protected from losing coverage for pre-existing conditions if the ACA is struck down by the Supreme Court.
Those with employer-provided insurance coverage in the large group market are not.