Opinion

An ongoing attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act

I’m about to make a statement that shouldn’t seem radical to anyone. Ready? Here it is: people with pre-existing medical conditions — like childhood asthma, a heart murmur, or even a concussion sustained during school sports — shouldn’t be discriminated against by insurance companies.

Not so extreme, right? The idea that individuals living with medical conditions should be able to obtain health insurance, rather than being charged astronomical prices or barred outright from purchasing a plan, should be common sense — which is why the provision protecting these Americans is one of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act. But unfortunately, the highest levels of the U.S. Department of Justice Department disagree — and as a result, the DOJ has recently announced that it will not defend the ACA’s guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions in an upcoming court case.

This news flummoxed me as much as it angered me. Why on earth would anyone choose to overturn this decision, and throw millions of Americans into uncertainty with regard to their ability to access insurance? It’s made even worse by the fact that this decision was made by the Department of Justice, whose job is to defend the laws of the land — and make no mistake, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

This is a cruel decision, which will make life a lot worse for a lot of people, and is the latest in the line of acts from the Administration to undermine the Affordable Care Act. The most obvious of these attempts was during the Open Enrollment Period, which had previously lasted for 12 weeks. Last open enrollment period? Half that — and the websites were shut down for 12 hours per day on Sundays, when many Americans would have the time to sit down and identify which plans best suited their medical needs.

These blatant sabotage efforts stem from the Administration’s dislike of the Affordable Care Act, and, as someone who was not in the Senate when the law was passed in 2010, I will readily agree that the law is not perfect. While the ACA provided coverage to millions of Americans who would otherwise be uninsured, we know that in particular, older, rural Maine people are struggling with the costs of the insurance premiums. That is wrong, and must be fixed — but these changes won’t help those people, because while Maine does have some protections in place for citizens with preexisting conditions, it also allows insurers to increase rates by 20% for people based on the following criteria: age, geographic location, or industry. That means that, say the ACA’s protections end, an older, rural lobsterman, or logger, or farmer, could be charged more under Maine laws; that’s not going to fix the real problems we have going on, it will make them worse.

While these changes won’t work, others will — changes that try to fix the Affordable Care Act, rather than scrap it. That is why I’ve worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to improve the legislation — because at the end of the day, this isn’t a matter of ideology. It’s about keeping our citizens healthy. It’s about the Department of Justice fulfilling its constitutional duty and defending the law. It’s about making sure Maine people, and people across America, aren’t discriminated against because they have a preexisting condition. It’s about compassion, and it’s about common sense — and I’ll keep fighting to defend the health insurance of Maine people, however, whenever, and as strongly as I possibly can.

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