Leahy Highlights Health Care Story And Effects Of Supreme Court Overturning ACA In Vermont

            WASHINGTON (MONDAY, Oct. 12, 2020) — Just now, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) shared the story of Martha Richards, a Vermonter who is enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) expanded Medicaid program. 

            Senators are highlighting the devastating effects of the Supreme Court potentially overturning the ACA in the midst of a global pandemic. The ACA provides insurance for more than 20 million Americans and protections for the 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions.

            Excerpt of Senator Leahy’s remarks:

            “Overturning the Affordable Care Act has been perhaps the single most important policy objective of the Republican Party over the last decade. If Republicans are now successful, the results will be nothing short of catastrophic for the millions of Americans who depend on its coverage and protections.

            “That includes Martha Richards, a Vermonter who reached out to my office concerned about the fate of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Martha earns just over the minimum wage in Vermont while working for the Vermont State Parks. She raised two kids on her own. Soon after enrolling in the expanded Medicaid program she began experiencing debilitating pain in her ear and behind her eye. That led to a series of expensive medical tests, including two MRIs that cost $6,000 each. She shudders at the thought of what would have happened without the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. If it is discarded now — as the Republican Attorneys General have requested in the case before the Supreme Court — millions of Americans like Martha would be on their own.

            “I am also concerned about Mary Nadon Scott, who lives in Northfield, Vermont, just over the ridge from my home in Middlesex. In her twenties, Mary was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare neurological disease that’s a pre-existing condition. While Vermont has some basic protections for those with pre-existing conditions, they apply only to certain insurance plans and wouldn’t protect anyone who moves out of state.

            “Like my wife, Marcelle, Mary had worked as a nurse, dedicating herself to the selfless care of others. While Mary is now in a wheelchair and can no longer practice nursing, she still does everything for her two kids. Mary can do this because her medications and in-home care paid for by her insurance. But even with some state protections, Mary is worried what the Supreme Court case next month will mean for people with preexisting conditions like her. For Mary, her biggest priority is preserving the in-home support that allows her to continue living at home and taking care of her children. When I think of what the Affordable Care Act means to millions of Americans—and what is on the line with this nomination—I think of people like Mary.”

            In Vermont, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the ACA, it would mean:

 More Vermonters losing coverage during a global pandemic

  • 60,600 Vermonters enrolled through the Medicaid expansion could lose coverage.
  • Over 20,000 Vermonters who get their insurance on the state exchange will lose federal subsidies.
  • Without Medicaid expansion and tax subsidies to help purchase Marketplace plans, even more Vermonters who have lost their job-based coverage could stay uninsured.

Discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions—including COVID-19 survivors.

  • The 256,800 Vermonters with pre-existing conditions could face higher costs, fewer benefits, and could have trouble finding coverage.
  • The 1,821 Vermonters who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 so far could face higher premiums and more meager coverage that puts health care out of reach.

Women pay more but get less.

  • Insurers not regulated by the State of Vermont could charge women higher premiums than men (i.e., “gender rate”) and offer fewer benefits for the 15,300 Vermont women under 65 covered through individual market plans.
  • Together, gender rating, reduced benefits, and the ability of insurers to deny coverage altogether could increase costs, bar access to care, and put coverage out of reach for 125,000 women under 65 and girls in Vermont with pre-existing conditions.

Higher costs for older Vermonters

  • Striking down the ACA would re-open the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole”—exposing 10,466 seniors to potentially thousands of dollars in out of pocket costs.
  • 145,000 Vermonters on Medicare could see higher premiums and deductibles put in place to compensate for payment standards to medical providers currently guaranteed by the ACA.

Judge Barrett’s record:

            Judge Amy Coney Barrett has already indicated she would vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Barrett has said she and Justice Antonin Scalia have the same judicial philosophy. Justice Scalia twice voted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. He wrote dissenting opinions in NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell.

Barrett criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding the law, saying in 2017: “[Chief Justice John] Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” Barrett also expressed disagreement with the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in King v. Burwell, where the court upheld a key component of the law, saying the dissent had “the better of the legal argument.”