Columns/Opinion, Guest Editorials

Pre-existing conditions in ‘modern age’

By Patrick W. Morrison
During the entirety of 2017, the GOP-led Congress sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at every turn.
Throughout — even as they introduced and voted on proposals that would spike premiums and leave millions uninsured — many agreed with Democrats on at least one thing: Consumer protections for those with pre-existing conditions should remain in place.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, even Trump unambiguously promised to protect people with pre-existing conditions, saying in a debate: “I want to keep pre-existing conditions. I think we need it. I think it’s a modern age. And I think we have to have it.”
This month, Trump’s own Department of Justice (DOJ), along with 20 Republican state attorneys general, asked the courts to strike down key provisions in the Affordable Care Act.
The DOJ and its conservative attorneys general cohorts specifically attacked the provision banning insurance companies from denying coverage or charging people more because of a pre-existing condition — the ACA’s most popular reform.

The real impact of the Trump administration’s decision if they win the lawsuit is clear: Overnight, Americans would once again be at the mercy of insurance companies, which could once again deny coverage or charge more because of a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing conditions include everything from asthma and diabetes to cancer and pregnancy, meaning about half of the entire U.S. population would be affected by such a ruling, including 737,900 West Virginians.

This move is just another tactic in the GOP and Trump administration’s greatest act of sabotage of American health care. In December, the GOP-majority Congress — with the votes of Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney — eliminated the requirement that all Americans have health insurance.
This year, the Trump administration proposed to expand short-term junk plans, which are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions. A report found that “oversight of the short-term market at the state level is limited, and protections for people with pre-existing conditions are largely nonexistent.”
According to analyses, the combination of those two actions will raise premiums for comprehensive health insurance even more — a burden that disproportionately falls on those with pre-existing conditions.

All of these actions put American adults with pre-existing conditions — as many as 130 million people — at grave risk. This number includes 737,900 West Virginians, who could be denied coverage or charged exorbitant amounts that price them out of the health care market as a result of these disastrous GOP and Trump administration policies.

This is not a divisive issue; 70 percent of Americans support the law ensuring coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and politicians on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of such vital protections. More telling, however, are the experts: 233 patient and consumer advocates, 17 physician groups, 30 nursing associations and 11 hospital groups, among many others, have come out in strong opposition to these actions taken by the Trump administration to undermine consumer protections for pre-existing conditions.

Americans with pre-existing conditions deserve access to affordable, comprehensive coverage, which Reps. McKinley and Mooney have threatened time and again with their votes and complicit support for disastrous Trump administration policies.
It is time for West Virginians to demand their representatives in Congress protect them.

Patrick W. Morrison is a community activist who lives in Charleston. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.