A lawsuit that began as a long-shot challenge to the Affordable Care Act now has life and death stakes as it winds its way through the courts. This is a lawsuit that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey signed the state onto, even though our residents arguably have the most to lose if the Affordable Care Act falls. If successful, it would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act including the extremely successful Medicaid expansion, pre-existing condition protections for all Americans, the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance to the age of 26, the requirement that women no longer be charged more for health coverage than men, and much more. An official within the Trump Administration admitted it would cause chaos in our health care system if successful.
On July 9th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit will begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of the sweeping health care law (read more on the lawsuit). If the 5th circuit upholds the lower court’s decision that the ACA is unconstitutional, the health care law will likely find itself back in front of the Supreme Court.
Now that the entirety of the Affordable Care Act is in peril again, what’s at stake for West Virginians? In short, a lot. If the lawsuit is successful:
–162,000 West Virginians (and 19.8 million Americans) will lose their health coverage.
-West Virginia would see a $1.045 billion annual loss in federal Medicaid funds, falling squarely on our state budget, health care providers, and rural hospitals.
-Our state would lose 17,000 jobs and our total annual GDP would be reduced by 2.3 percent.
–392,000 West Virginians between the ages of 19-64 with pre-existing conditions could once again be denied health coverage or charged more by insurers because of their conditions. West Virginia has the highest share of non-elderly adults with declinable pre-existing conditions in the nation at 36 percent.
-Young people would no longer be able to remain on their parents’ coverage through the age of 26. Approximately 12,000 young West Virginians would lose coverage under the loss of this popular provision.
-Medicare beneficiaries would see cuts to their preventive care and prescription drug coverage, negatively impacting one in four West Virginians who rely on Medicare.
The Affordable Care Act, passed a decade ago, is inextricably woven into our health care system. Beyond the Medicaid expansion that insured 20 million people, the health insurance marketplaces that allow those who don’t have health coverage at their jobs to buy it, and the pre-existing condition protections, the ACA also required sweeping provider payment reforms, breastfeeding accommodations for new parents at work, and calorie counts on restaurant menus-reforms that would be impossible to fully unwind.
If successful, the lawsuit would affect nearly every West Virginian because of the massive effects on our health care system and our economy. Perhaps the plaintiffs recognized that, as earlier this month they tried to delay the July 9th hearing but were denied. The hearing will go on as scheduled, with massive stakes for West Virginians and the nation.
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