Chris Murphy: Trump’s health care sabotage will gut protections for Connecticut

Hartford Courant

Today in a federal courthouse in Louisiana, the Trump administration will argue that protections for over 522,000 people in Connecticut with pre-existing conditions should be invalidated immediately.

If this comes as a surprise, I don't blame you. Anyone who has read the president's Twitter feed would be led to believe that while the president opposes the Affordable Care Act, he still wants to protect people with pre-existing conditions. It’s something he has repeated time and time again. Unfortunately, this is, and has always been, a lie.

Upon taking office, President Trump and his allies in Congress pushed for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They came close, but thanks to grassroots activism from people across the country and a few brave Republicans, the repeal effort ultimately failed. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop President Trump; he just shifted his efforts to the courts and executive actions to sabotage our health care system and weaken the protections established by the ACA.

The Trump administration’s support for the lawsuit, brought by a handful of Republican states, to overturn the ACA in its entirety is its most aggressive and dangerous move yet, and it’s one that would put care for hundreds of thousands of Connecticut families in jeopardy.

The novel legal argument that the Trump administration is making is that the entirety of the ACA needs to be wiped out by the courts just because Congress repealed the penalty people have to pay if they don’t have insurance. Of course, Congress explicitly kept the rest of the ACA while removing the penalty provision, so Trump is asking the courts to overturn the clear will of Congress.

But late last year, a conservative district court judge ruled in favor of Trump, and now the appeals court is hearing the case.

Let’s be clear about the consequences of invalidating the entire ACA: It would be a humanitarian catastrophe.

Protections for people with pre-existing conditions that keep insurance companies from denying them care or charging them more? Gone. Requiring insurance companies to let young adults stay on their parents’ plans until age 26? Gone. Health insurance for the 231,000 people who are covered under Medicaid expansion in Connecticut? Gone.

Invalidating the entire ACA would also send us back to the days when insurance companies could charge women 50 percent more than men. It would eliminate financial assistance that helps millions of people afford plans through Access Health CT. And it would make it so that insurance companies no longer have to cover basic needs like prescription drugs or trips to the hospital. In other words, health care in America would be thrown into complete chaos.

At business visits, town halls, and my annual walk across Connecticut last week, I've had the opportunity to hear from people in our state about how afraid they are about the potential consequences of this lawsuit.

I heard from a mom named Becky, from Storrs, whose son has diabetes. She said, "If the Affordable Care Act is struck down, and insurance companies are allowed to kick people with pre-existing conditions off of their parents’ insurance, we'd lose everything. We would have to declare bankruptcy."

I heard from a woman named Claudia from Coventry: "I have survived breast cancer (five years in June), and I was diagnosed just as my COBRA coverage was expiring. If I hadn't had coverage through the ACA, my retirement savings would have been wiped out."

I heard from a college student named John from Middletown who was diagnosed with cancer when he was 12. He survived cancer but will deal with its effects for the rest of his life. John said: "If it were up to insurance companies, I would likely not be able to get medical coverage. If it were up to the insurance companies, I would be left alone to financially fend for myself."

The people who I hear from are afraid, and, frankly, they have every right to be. There are 130 million Americans living with pre-existing conditions. If the Trump administration gets its way, many of them will be denied the life-saving care they depend on.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is no denying that we can improve the ACA and strengthen its protections. But throwing it out with no plan for a replacement is cruel and illogical.

We know it’s wrong for insurance companies to kick people off their plans just because they get sick. We know that parents shouldn’t have to fear bankruptcy if their child is diagnosed with an illness.

Today in court, the Trump administration will argue that these fundamental protections should be overturned. And we cannot let them get away with it