OP-ED: Health care must remain accessible and affordable in PA

The Affordable Care Act, which finally made affordable, quality health insurance a reality for tens of millions of Americans and their families, has faced constant threats since it was passed by Congress in 2010, despite its success in reducing the rate of uninsured people in Pennsylvania and other states to the lowest level in history. 

The ACA expanded Medicaid, prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and placing annual and lifetime spending limits on coverage, and finally gives people who don't have health insurance through work an opportunity to purchase the coverage they and their families need at a price they can afford.

Every insurance plan sold under the ACA must include 10 essential health benefits. Those include, among other things, emergency services, maternity and newborn care, pediatric services, mental health and substance abuse services, and chronic disease management. These services are vital to keeping individuals and families healthy, and our communities safe.

The ACA also prohibits insurance companies from placing annual and lifetime dollar limits on your care. Before the ACA, these kinds of limits often left patients suffering from severe or chronic medical conditions with no coverage, no care, and no recourse.

Health insurance plans should pay for the care you need when you need it. The Affordable Care Act finally made that a reality for many individuals and families that routinely faced impossible choices between physical health and financial security.

Despite the health and financial boost the ACA has given to tens of millions of American families and the stability it has meant for hospitals, health care jobs, and our economy, President Trump and Republicans in Congress have spent the past two years engaged in a full-court press to sabotage the law and take us back to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage to many people outright, place annual and lifetime limits on care, and sell cut-rate plans that didn't provide the coverage people need.

Republican efforts to repeal the ACA are opposed by a majority of Americans and have repeatedly failed in Congress, so Trump and those opposed to quality, affordable health care have rigged the system with executive orders and other administration policies in an effort to undermine the law. They have also turned to the courts to do their dirty work for them. Recently, a Republican judge in Texas, focusing on the portion of the ACA that's designed to keep quality coverage affordable for everyone, ruled the entire law unconstitutional.

That ruling faces several rounds of appeals, so for now, the ACA remains the law of the land. But if the president and Republicans in Washington are successful in getting the courts to reject the federal health care law and cancel access to affordable insurance for millions of people, the consequences in Pennsylvania could be devastating. 

That's why we are introducing legislation to place the protection of essential insurance benefits and prohibition on coverage limits contained in the ACA into Pennsylvania law. State Rep. Peter Schweyer is joining us in this effort by introducing legislation that would preserve access to coverage for Pennsylvanians who have pre-existing conditions.

If you get sick or are in an accident, you shouldn't have to go into debt or bankruptcy to get the health care you need. And if you suffer from a chronic medical condition or are diagnosed with cancer, you shouldn't face the prospect of losing your care because your insurance plan stopped paying for it or refused to cover you to begin with.  

Our legislation would continue improving health insurance and health care in Pennsylvania while protecting the financial security and quality of life your family deserves. Placing the essential health care benefits and protections currently contained in the ACA into Pennsylvania law would ensure that profit-driven insurance executives, politicians in Washington and misguided judges in other states can't eliminate the important medical and financial safeguards we've fought so hard in recent years to secure for you and your family here in Pennsylvania.