Governor Tom Wolf, Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman and Secretary of Human Services Teresa Miller today condemned a Texas federal judge’s decision ruling the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional, saying this action could jeopardize comprehensive health coverage for millions of Pennsylvanians. However, the Wolf Administration reminded consumers any health plans they have purchased or buy today, the final day of open enrollment for 2019 coverage starting January 1, will still contain vital protections such as those for pre-existing conditions, preventive care, mental health and substance use disorder, and prescription drugs while the court proceedings play out.
“If this decision were to be upheld by the higher courts, it could jeopardize coverage for the over 1.1 million Pennsylvanians who have gained coverage only available to them because of the ACA,” Governor Wolf said. “This would move our health care system backwards to a time when millions of Pennsylvania residents weren’t protected from losing their insurance and Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate was almost triple today’s rate. These outcomes are simply unacceptable. If any court does damage to the Affordable Care Act, I vow to do everything in my power to enact changes at the state level to protect Pennsylvanians, especially vulnerable populations and those with pre-existing conditions.
“We fully anticipate an immediate appeal of this decision, and expect the courts will ultimately keep the ACA and its vital protections for millions of Americans in place, as they have consistently ruled in previous legal challenges,” Commissioner Altman continued. “It is important for all consumers to understand that the plans they are enrolled in today have not changed and any individual health plans they have purchased during open enrollment will still contain these important comprehensive benefits for 2019. Open enrollment continues today, and anyone purchasing a plan on healthcare.gov will also have access to coverage for their children up to age 26, and get all the essential health benefits guaranteed by the ACA.”
“Governor Wolf’s expansion of Medicaid under the ACA, along with his entire administration’s work to get more people insured, has led to our state’s uninsured rate dropping to an all-time low of 5.5 percent in 2017,” Secretary Miller said. “We will continue to fight to protect the comprehensive coverage for vulnerable Pennsylvanians, including Medicaid access, especially for people with pre-existing and chronic conditions and substance use and mental health disorders. We want more Pennsylvanians to have coverage and access, not less.”
The Wolf Administration said a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found about 27 percent of Pennsylvanians, roughly 3.5 million people, have pre-existing conditions. These include such common conditions as asthma, high blood pressure, or a prior history of breast cancer. Individuals with these conditions and others could have coverage for these conditions denied if this ruling were to ultimately stand. This was the case prior to passage of the ACA, when Americans were routinely denied coverage or charged exorbitant premiums if they had pre-existing health issues.