With the healthcare of millions hanging in the balance, a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Wednesday delivered a broadside that could sink Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and Colorado health organizations are concerned.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has scheduled a meeting with reporters Thursday. Weiser is one of the attorneys general who intervened to defend the insurance program passed by President Obama and congressional Democrats in 2010.
“The good news from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is that the key portions of the Affordable Care Act remain the law of the land,” Weiser said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon. “Even though the court found the individual mandate to be unconstitutional, it did not strike down the entire law, instead sending the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.
He said the law affects everybody, including those who are insured through their job. Weiser said 700,000 Coloradans with pre-existing conditions are now insured, and 400,000 have insurance thanks to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act also allowed people to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they are 26 years old, instead of 21.
“We must continue to stand up against the federal government’s attacks on healthcare and the Justice Department’s wrongful decision to challenge — rather than defend — this important law,” Weiser said.
About 600,000 Coloradans — about 9% — get their insurance thanks to Obamacare. That, however, swelled Colorado’s Medicaid rolls by expanding eligibility to people above the poverty line. The Medicaid budget has grown 73% since the expansion began in 2014.
The money to pay for it, primarily, is federal, but that won’t always be the case.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a district court ruling from Texas that found mandated insurance unconstitutional. The appellate court sent the case back to the courts in Texas to determine whether all of the Obamacare remains viable as it would remain, without requiring all Americans to have health insurance.
If not, the entirety of President Obama’s signature achievement would be deemed unconstitutional.
“This decision continues the unprecedented threat to health care for millions of consumers in the U.S. and is a direct result of the Trump Administration’s relentless efforts to sabotage the ACA,” Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said in a statement. “This court case could strip more than 600,000 Coloradans of the health coverage they need, resulting in a 150% increase in the uninsured. If this happens, it will throw the insurance market into chaos and leave our state budget in crisis, people’s lives are at stake in this court case.”
He said the case posed an extraordinary risk for the state.
“Colorado has fully implemented the ACA at the state level and dramatically reduced the number of uninsured, but, the loss of federal funding to support Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies could result in putting health coverage and care beyond the reach of almost all that have gained access under the law,” Fox said. “It also threatens the stability of clinics and rural hospitals and their surrounding communities. The ACA has become fundamental to our health care system, providing millions with high quality, affordable health care that was once out of reach to many.”
Moe Keller, director of advocacy for Mental Health Colorado, pointed to the ACA’s guaranteed coverage of people with preexisting conditions.
“If the ACA is struck down, this will be catastrophic for all individuals with mental health concerns,” Keller said. “At a time when we need to be providing more mental health services, taking away mental health services would be devastating. This is not the way to move forward with health care in this country.”
Losing care would be a major setback for Coloradans, said Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, the state’s largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer residents and their families.
“We’re at a critical turning point to improve LGBTQ health in the state,” he said in a statement. “This court case threatens to increase the gap for LGBTQ Coloradans accessing quality, affordable, affirming healthcare.”