During stop in Meriden, Murphy tells advocates ‘precarious time for the ACA’

Meriden Record Journal

MERIDEN — Hearing concerns from local practitioners, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said supporters of the Affordable Care Act will need to fight to save the Obama administration policy.

Murphy, D-Connecticut, talking with area professionals at Rushford Center this week, said Democratic lawmakers will need to push back against any Republican efforts to scale back or repeal the law, commonly known as Obamacare, while a group of attorneys generals is appealing a federal December ruling that found the policy unconstitutional.

“We’re going to be playing defense on the federal level on all this,” Murphy said. “Is there a plan in place to replace the ACA? That’s the reason the GOP’s repeal effort failed in 2017.They never figured out what they wanted to replace it with.”

Professionals and residents present Monday asked about provisions requiring parity for mental health treatment and substance abuse, drug prices, telemedicine and various quirks in the current healthcare system.

A federal appellate court judge in Texas ruled last month that a mandate for individuals to have insurance coverage, a key component of the act, was unconstitutional and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA.

At least 16 Democratic attorneys general, led by California, have joined an appeal of the ruling, though, and the ACA remains in place in the meantime. Part of the reason behind Murphy’s visit Monday was to create awareness around an extension until Jan. 15 for individuals without coverage to purchase a policy through the state’s exchange market, Access Health Connecticut.

He also wanted to rally support from advocates and professionals.

“It’s a very precarious time for the ACA,” Murphy said. “Connecticut was a state early on that showed how the ACA could work. Instead of leading to the next steps, we are still protecting gains we have made. Trump is on a two-year campaign of sabotage and has pulled advertising and marketing. But the immediate threat is the lawsuit”

Connecticut law requires coverage for certain benefits from policies sold on the exchange. Those advocating for purchasing plans across state lines are attempting to bypass Connecticut oversight, Murphy told the group.

The conversation with Murphy and the providers often veered to the government shut down now underway, and the impact it will have on the health and supportive housing for the developmentally disabled and other vulnerable populations.

The group also wanted answers on generic drug pricing reform, which is gaining some bipartisan support, but won’t get far without allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies. Direct negotiations could save taxpayers $50 billion annually, Murphy said.  

Patricia Rehmer, President of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, led the roundtable discussion to give practitioners and advocates the opportunity to question Murphy. Rehmer said the group has a large number of patients in and out of supportive housing that rely on the ACA for coverage.

“If we lose that we will have many people who are uninsured go to the emergency rooms, and that’s not where we want people to go for health care,” Rehmer said.