For Immediate Release: June 25, 2020
Contact: Kelly Allen, 304-612-4180 or Jessica Ice, 304-322-0074
Charleston, WV – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting major recession, the Trump Administration and 18 state attorneys general, including West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, plan to file briefs this week asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). If the lawsuit succeeds, at least 162,000 West Virginians- and likely many more – would lose health coverage.
“The administration and AGs’ lawsuit has the potential to throw our health care system into complete chaos in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession,” said Jessica Ice, Executive Director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. “Thousands of West Virginians, many with pre-existing health conditions, would lose coverage and many more would pay more for coverage or care.”
The Supreme Court is likely to decide the case in the first half of 2021, when the unemployment rate is still expected to be about 10 percent and the public health crisis may still be ongoing. ACA repeal was projected to cause 20 million people to lose coverage nationally – and 162,000 people in West Virginia – before the crisis, but many more would likely lose coverage if the law is repealed during a deep recession, when even more people will turn to ACA programs for coverage.
Many of the estimated 130,000 West Virginians who have already lost job-based health coverage during the COVID-19 economic crisis are eligible for coverage thanks to the ACA. Estimates show nearly two-thirds are eligible for Medicaid coverage through the ACA expansion and another 22 percent are eligible for marketplace coverage with premium tax credits.
Both the Medicaid expansion and the premium tax credits that help moderate-income people afford private coverage in the health insurance marketplaces would be eliminated if the ACA is struck down.
Research shows the ACA has improved access to care, financial security, and health outcomes – with strong evidence that both Medicaid expansion and coverage through the ACA marketplaces save lives. Reversing these coverage gains would be expected to worsen all of these outcomes, and the adverse effects would be even greater with more people depending on the ACA for coverage during the recession.
The ACA also significantly narrowed racial disparities in health coverage, and the lawsuit would widen them. Based on pre-crisis estimates, repeal would cause nearly 1 in 10 non-elderly Black people, and 1 in 10 non-elderly Hispanic people, to lose their health insurance, compared to about 1 in 16 white people.
Coverage losses from the lawsuit would also lead to spikes in uncompensated care costs that would add to the financial burden on state and local budgets during an unprecedented state budget crisis and harm providers at a time when many will likely still be reeling from the large drop in their revenues due to the pandemic. Uncompensated care costs in West Virginia have fallen by 69 percent as a share of hospital budgets since the ACA’s major coverage provisions took effect. COVID-19 is threatening the survival of some community-based providers and safety net and rural hospitals, and this lawsuit, if successful, would only exacerbate this crisis.
Meanwhile, striking down the ACA would also eliminate other policies and protections important to addressing and recovering from the public health crisis. West Virginians with pre-existing health conditions – which could include having had COVID-19 – could once again be denied coverage or charged higher premiums. Insurance companies would no longer have to cover preventive services, including vaccines, without cost sharing, and could go back to putting annual and lifetime limits on coverage. And Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funding would be cut.
“The ACA has been critical to West Virginia’s ability to deal with both the pandemic and the resulting economic recession,” said Kelly Allen, interim deputy director of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy. “Striking down the law would impede efforts to end the public health crisis and deal with the fallout. West Virginia’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey should immediately remove our state from this dangerous lawsuit.”
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