Kentucky attorney general vows to appeal health care ruling

Kentucky attorney general vows to appeal health care ruling
Gov. Steve Beshear

FRANKFORT, KY. (FOX19) - Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is fighting a federal court ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act.

It could eliminate coverage for around 1.3 million Kentuckians -- and cost the state nearly $50 billion, he said Monday in a news release.

A federal judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in whole on Friday night, likely setting up a final decision on the law’s fate at the Supreme Court.

The law, known as Obamacare, was effectively nullified by the ruling.

That, Beshear warns, will strip away key benefits for Kentuckians with pre-existing conditions, seniors’ prescription drug discounts and allows companies to charge women and seniors more for coverage.

“This ruling would immediately eliminate coverage for 500,000 Kentuckians on Expanded Medicaid, and on the private insurance side would return Kentucky to a time when insurance companies could simply refuse coverage for Kentuckians based on pre-existing conditions, age and even gender,” Beshear said in the release.

“With Kentuckians facing so many needs, we cannot allow a Texas court to strip coverage away from our Kentucky families.”

Beshear and a group of attorneys general have been battling the federal caseTexas et al. v. United States, et al – over the last year to protect health care nationwide, according to a news release from his office.

Beshear identified 10 key harms to Kentuckians if the ruling is not overturned:

  • No mandatory coverage for preexisting conditions. It’s  estimated that 50 percent of Kentuckians under the age of 65 suffer from a  pre-existing condition. Insurance companies would be able to deny  coverage to all of these individuals, and, Beshear said, “cancel coverage  when a Kentuckian gets sick.”
  • Elimination of Expanded  Medicaid. The ruling would wipe out Medicaid expansion entirely,  which has provided coverage to more than 500,000 Kentuckians. “These  families would lose coverage, and the state would lose nearly $50 billion  in funding, which cycles through Kentucky’s economy, resulting in a loss  of tens of thousands of health care and related jobs,” Beshear said. 
  • Children under the age of 26 would not be able to  remain on their parents’ insurance plans. The ACA  requires insurance companies to let children under the age of 26 remain on  their parents’ insurance plans. Those protections would be gone, leaving  Kentucky families at risk. This provision is among the most popular in the  law, Beshear said, because “it allows parents to cover their children  during their college and early working years.” 
  • Seniors would have to pay more for prescription drugs. The ACA  closed the so-called “donut hole” or coverage gap in Medicare Part D  prescription drug coverage over time. Without the ACA, seniors would be  forced to incur thousands of dollars in additional prescription drug  costs.
  • Women would once again be charged more than men. The ACA  eliminated gender discrimination in health care. Without the ACA,  insurance companies can charge women more than they can charge men for  health care, solely based on their gender.
  • Guaranteed pregnancy coverage would be eliminated. Before  the ACA, Beshear said it was virtually impossible to access quality  pregnancy coverage in the private market. “Insurers would charge  astronomical sums for special, separate policies that imposed lengthy  waiting periods before they even went into effect,” he said. “The result  was that women didn’t get vital prenatal care, and their babies were more  likely to be born too early and suffer from preventable complications.” 
  • Substance  Use Disorder Treatment would no longer be a required benefit. The ACA has been a vital tool to help Kentucky  fight the opioid epidemic because the law requires insurance plans to cover  substance abuse treatment on par with other services. The  Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky reported a 740 percent increase in  substance abuse services for Medicaid expansion beneficiaries, and a 400  percent increase in the number of Kentuckians with traditional Medicaid  receiving substance abuse treatment from 2014 to 2016. 
  • Rural hospitals would suffer. Studies  have repeatedly shown that rural hospitals are more likely to close in  states that have not expanded Medicaid. Kentucky hospitals have received  billions from Medicaid expansion, and without that critical funding,  Beshear said many would find themselves in dire financial straits,  jeopardizing thousands of good-paying jobs in the neediest areas of the  state.
  • Children would lose access to no-cost immunizations and  well-child visits. The ACA guarantees that parents can ensure their  children receive life-saving immunizations free of charge. Those  protections would be gone, and parents would have to pay staggeringly high  sums for vaccines once again, Beshear said. 
  • Older Kentuckians would be charged vastly more than  younger ones. The ACA guarantees that older Kentuckians can never be  charged more than three times as much as younger ones for health  insurance. Those protections would be eliminated, making it virtually  certain that insurance costs for older Kentuckians, particularly those in  the 55-64 age range, would skyrocket, Beshear said, “making insurance  essentially unavailable to older hard-working Kentuckians whose jobs don’t  provide it.”

Beshear said health care is vital for Kentuckians in a state that leads the nation in many types of cancer.

The ACA provides access to colon cancer screenings, mammograms and other vital cancer detections, and without them, Beshear said, the lives of Kentuckians would be put at risk.

“Kentuckians who face numerous health issues are beginning to move the needle on their personal health and the state’s overall well-being through these screenings that have provided lifesaving measures for thousands of Kentuckians,” Beshear said in the news release. “To do away with these, is this the fate we want for our people?”

Beshear is joined by attorneys general in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

More than 25 organizations have filed court documents in support of Beshear and the group of attorneys general fighting for health care nationwide, he said.

That includes the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Hospital Association, AARP, Small Business Majority Foundation and the American Health Insurance Plans.

In the coming days, the group of AGs will take the necessary legal actions to appeal the Texas ruling, Beshear said.

His ultimate goal is for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the matter.

The parties seeking to dismantle the ACA include attorneys general in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and governors of Maine and Mississippi.

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