Harrisburg, Pa. – Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, supporters of the Affordable Care Act across the U.S. have become incredibly anxious about the federal law, which has been argued several times in court in attempts to deem it unconstitutional.
Though the bill has been widely praised because of its minimum care coverage requirements and ban on disqualifying people from health insurance coverage due to preexisting conditions, it is also criticized for penalizing individuals who do not want to buy health insurance.
In order to preserve the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, House Democrats are calling for a vote on a package of four bills to enshrine these parts in state law. The bills have been trapped in limbo for over a year.
“Now, more than ever, people need to know they can continue to see their doctor and get the care they need without having to worry about insurmountable medical bills,” said House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris (Philadelphia). “Unfortunately, we can be called back to Harrisburg at the drop of a hat to play political games, but not to deal with this legislation that hasn’t even been brought up for a vote. Pennsylvanians deserve better.”
To emphasize the urgency of the situation, the House Democrats are using a discharge resolution - a rarely-used political move that puts pieces of legislation on the floor of the House for an up-or-down vote when the bill is trapped in the committee phase.
To move a bill with a discharge resolution, 25 legislators must sign on and publicly announce that they intend to bring the bill up for consideration. Nine Republicans would be required to agree to bring the package of bills to a vote for the discharge resolution to succeed.
“Nothing matters more than making sure people can afford to see a doctor when they get sick, and it’s time for the majority party here in Pennsylvania to join us and put those people first," said House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody (Allegheny/Westmoreland).
The bills are:
House Bill 471: Protecting people with pre-existing conditions
People with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure, pregnancy, or surviving COVID-19 cannot be disqualified for health insurance because of these conditions. Without insurance, people skip vital checkups, go into debt or bankruptcy to deal with bills, or simply die.
House Bill 469: Ensuring essential health benefits
Under this bill, all insurance sold in Pennsylvania would be required to cover a minimum of care. The "minimum" includes:
- Ambulatory services
- Emergency services
- Maternity and newborn care
- Mental and behavioral health care
- Substance abuse disorder services
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitation and habilitation services
- Chronic disease management
- Pediatric services including oral and vision care
House Bill 470: Ending lifetime limits on coverage
This bill would prevent insurance plans in Pennsylvania from stopping insurance payments if a policyholder reaches a certain coverage limit. Without a rule like this, people with expensive-to-treat conditions like cancer could easily use up their coverage and get dropped from their insurance.
House Bill 913: Preserving coverage for adult children
This bill would allow parents to keep adult children on their insurance coverage until age 26. With more than half of young adults living with their parents due to factors such as low wages, high housing costs, and student loan debt, the bill could help to give young adults a better chance at success without being bogged down by medical expenses on top of everything else.
Pennsylvania is also launching its own state-based insurance exchange on www.pennie.com, which will give Pennsylvanians an alternative to the federal exchange.
“No one should have to go uninsured or underinsured at any time, but especially during a global pandemic,” said House Democratic Appropriations Chairman Matt (Bradford/Montgomery). “We should be advancing strategies to make health care in Pennsylvania more affordable and accessible, but instead, we have to play defense for Pennsylvanians just to maintain these basic protections they have today."