Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said Tuesday that Alabama would be one of the hardest-hit states if President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, the Affordable Care Act, is reversed by federal courts.
“If the courts dismantle this law, Alabama is one of the states with the most to lose,” Jones said. “It’s already a challenge for many Alabamians to access the health care they need, particularly in our rural communities.”
Jones’ comments come after President Donald Trump’s administration announced it would ask the federal courts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. The Justice Department filed the notice to the court late Monday, which seeks to strike down the whole law including Medicaid expansion and protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
“Instead of making that even more difficult, we need to be focusing on making some much-needed improvements to our current system, like lowering the cost of prescription drugs, combating the opioid epidemic, increasing access to rural health care and finally expanding Medicaid in the state of Alabama,” Jones said. “The Administration is playing politics with health care and we have to stand up to protect folks from losing their coverage and the vital protections that the federal health law guarantees.”
Jones is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
In the filing with a federal appeals court on Monday, the Justice Department said it agreed with the ruling of a federal judge in Texas that the 2010 health care reform law is unconstitutional.
The filing is another step by Republicans to take out the law and support a path forward that Democrats say would potentially cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance coverage.
The lawsuit in Texas federal court was filed by 20 state attorneys general, including Alabama.
So far, the administration had refused to defend the law, but the new position goes further to supporting a complete invalidation of it without any alternatives to replace it.
More than 166,100 people in Alabama have federal Marketplace plans through the Affordable Care Act, meaning those individuals would lose their health coverage if the law is invalidated in the courts.
Moreover, an additional 942,000 non-elderly Alabamians have declinable pre-existing conditions and could be denied coverage or charged more for a health care plan without the law’s pre-existing conditions protections.
That number represents one-third of people under the age of 65 in Alabama.
Insurers could reinstate annual and lifetime limits on coverage, and women could again be charged more than men for the same care. Young adults would no longer be able to stay on their parents’ health care plans until the age of 26.
About 35,000 young adults in Alabama are in that group.
Jones has introduced legislation to incentivize Alabama to expand Medicaid by offering states full funding for the first three years — the same deal states got years ago if they decided to expand Medicaid when it was first made an option.
Jones and the Alabama Hospital Association say Medicaid expansion is one of the only options to curb the closure of rural hospitals that has been endemic in the state for the past decade.
Since 2011, thirteen hospitals have closed in Alabama, seven of which were in rural areas.