Kaine, Colleagues Call On President Trump To Abandon Latest Effort To Threaten Health Care For People With Pre-Existing Conditions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined 47 colleagues in a letter calling on President Trump to abandon his Administration’s latest effort to undo the Affordable Care Act and threaten health care for people with pre-existing conditions.
The letter to President Trump addresses his Administration’s decision to support a lawsuit from 20 states, Texas v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), that would threaten the guarantee of health coverage for up to 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. If the lawsuit succeeds, insurance companies will once again be able to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions by denying them coverage or charging higher premiums.
“Your Administration is not only supporting a lawsuit that is dangerous and destructive to the health care system, it is also turning its back on the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including 17 million children,” the Senators wrote in the letter to Trump. “If these states and the DOJ prevail, health insurers will once again be able to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, women, and seniors by denying them coverage or charging higher premiums simply because they have had a medical event ranging from acne to cancer to having a baby.”
In addition to Kaine, the letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Gary Peters (D-MI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Robert Casey (D-PA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
The full text of the letter is available here and appears below.
June 26, 2018
President Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Trump,
We write in opposition to your Administration’s decision to support a lawsuit, Texas v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),brought forward by Republican Attorneys General that urges a Federal court to strike down critical patient protections and create chaos across the entire health care system. In doing so, your Administration is not only supporting a lawsuit that is dangerous and destructive to the health care system, it is also turning its back on the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, including 17 million children.
On February 26, Texas and 19 other state Attorneys General filed a frivolous lawsuit against the Administration in Texas v. HHS seeking to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). On June 7, the DOJ filed a brief supporting this lawsuit and urging the Texas Court to overturn those protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
In his June 07, 2018 letter to Congress, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made clear that this decision to not defend Federal law in court came “with the approval of the President of the United States”. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is now affirmatively arguing in court for an end to critical protections for people with preexisting conditions—“prohibiting discriminatory premium rates” (community-rating) and “guarantee[ing] issuance of coverage in the individual and group market” (guaranteed issue) — which prevent insurance companies from charging individuals higher premiums based health status and other factors, or denying them coverage altogether.
If these states and the DOJ prevail, health insurers will once again be able to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, women, and seniors by denying them coverage or charging higher premiums simply because they have had a medical event ranging from acne to cancer to having a baby.
You have repeatedly promised to protect guaranteed health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions. You are now breaking this promise by using the courts to put insurance companies back in charge of patients’ health care and giving them free rein to deny care to those who need it the most, including children, women, seniors, and the millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. More than 30 groups representing patients, doctors, hospitals, medical schools, health insurers, workers, employers and others, warn that the DOJ’s actions will “have a devastating impact on doctors, patients, and the American health care system as a whole” and could “strip health coverage and protections from nearly 30 million people.” We call on you to reverse course and direct the DOJ to defend the patient protections that all Americans rely on today.
Approximately 133 million non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing condition and many are older adults, as the likelihood of having a pre-existing condition increases with age. Before the Affordable Care Act, health insurers denied or offered severely limited coverage to these millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions. Insurers could refuse to cover or charge higher premiums based on gender, as being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition. This practice cost women about $1 billion a year in higher premiums as compared to men. Insurers often also charged an “age tax” or higher premiums for older Americans, making coverage unaffordable.
Today, federal law prohibits insurers from denying coverage or charging more for those individuals with pre-existing conditions. The law has significantly decreased the number of uninsured people with pre-existing conditions by 22 percent. The American people have made it clear that we cannot go back to the days when too many of our families were forced to pay unaffordable prices for inadequate coverage, remain locked in a job or go without health insurance altogether, and be at risk of medical debt or bankruptcy.
People across the country want Washington to stand with patients and families by working across party lines to improve health care and defend the patient protections they have today. Should you succeed in striking down these protections, it would result in disastrous consequences for millions of Americans whether they buy their own coverage or get it from an employer. This flies in the face of the commitments that you and other Republicans made that the tax law wouldn’t affect people with pre-existing conditions. With this filing, the Administration is abandoning its legal and constitutional responsibilities to faithfully execute our nation’s laws, opting instead to accomplish what they couldn’t in Congress—taking away guaranteed health coverage and forcing millions of Americans to pay more, for less care.
We remain committed to improving health care coverage and making our nation’s health care system work for all Americans. Yet, this latest sabotage attempt is the most dangerous yet. Your Administration’s actions threaten to create soaring health care costs, unleash chaos in the market, and threaten the very well-being of the American people by placing unscrupulous insurance companies back in control. For this reason, we urge you to make good on your promise to stand with patients and work with us to improve the health care system rather than using taxpayer dollars to hurt the very individuals and families you promised to protect.