Amy’s Advocacy Corner
On March 23, 2019, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) celebrated its ninth anniversary. In those nine years, the ACA has been a game-changer for women with heart disease – increasing the number who are insured, offering protections for pre-existing conditions, and guaranteeing essential benefits. At the same time, there has been a need both to improve some aspects of the law and to defend the ACA from attempts to repeal it. That’s why, nine years later, the ACA is still a top issue for Congress.
In particular, there was a lot of action this week on ACA-related matters in Washington. On Tuesday, March 26, House leaders introduced a bill to improve access and affordability in the ACA. The Protecting Pre-Existing Conditions and Making Health Care More Affordable Act of 2019, was introduced by Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Richard Neal (D-MA), and Bobby Scott (D-VA). The bill would take concrete steps to reduce costs for consumers; ensure quality coverage; support enrollment and outreach, including expansion of the Health Care Navigator program; and eliminate short-term, limited-duration plans, which discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions. WomenHeart joined several other organizations in supporting this bill.
At the same time, the Department of Justice announced its full support of a judgment made last December in Texas vs. United States that the entire ACA is unconstitutional. This is an expansion of the Administration’s previous position, which argued that certain protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be struck down, but the rest of the law should stand. This case continues to move through the courts, but if the ACA is overturned in its entirety there would be major impact on our entire health system and on women with heart disease who rely on the ACA for their coverage, for preventive services, and for consumer protections.
Finally, on Wednesday, March 27, the House Subcommittee on Health of the Energy and Commerce Committee marked up several bills to strengthen the ACA. These included legislation officially supported by WomenHeart: H.R. 986 and H.R. 1010 would overturn policies allowing sub-standard insurance plans without protections for people with pre-existing conditions to enter the market and H.R. 987 would restore outreach and enrollment funding to assist consumers signing up for health care.