Health care officials react on Affordable Care Act mandate - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Health care officials react on Affordable Care Act mandate

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -

Governor Mark Dayton joined eight other governors Wednesday in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging him to reconsider his decision in the Texas vs. United States case.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration argued in a brief filed in a Texas federal lawsuit, that the ACA provisions protecting people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer should be struck down.

"It feels pretty likely at this point," said Katie Martin, former Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at U.S Health and Human Services. 

The U.S. Justice Department said the provisions were unconstitutional for requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. If that argument is accepted by the federal court, insurers could deny people coverage because of their medical condition or history, according to experts.

"There are 133 million non-elderly people in the U.S. that have a pre-existing condition," said  "There are 2.3 million Minnesotans. We have a report that we are going to release this week that shows just over a million women in Minnesota have pre-existing conditions," said Martin. 

Many lawmakers believe this would be a grave threat to health insurance coverage, but there isn't enough information on it.

Senator Amy Klobuchar is calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to release information on how they plan to prevent health care coverage losses and premium increases.

"The people of Minnesota – and all Americans – deserve to know how the Administration plans to protect their access to health care if the Administration succeeds in invalidating these protections," Sen. Klobuchar said in a statement released Tuesday.

"All those millions of people would be at risk for either having coverage denied, being charged a lot more money for their insurance, or having certain conditions excluded from coverage," said Martin.

Dr. Douglas Woods is the president-elect of the Minnesota Medical Association, the largest physicians' organization in the state. He says the loss of coverage of pre-existing conditions would be detrimental, regardless of how we buy our insurance.

"For people who have more serious pre-existing conditions, the cost can be very high very early. If you think of somebody with inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that requires expensive medication, if they were to change a job and suddenly be confronted with an insurance option at work that did not cover their pre-existing condition, they can go from having a condition well-controlled to suddenly completely out of control. Their life can literally be ruined by the consequences of these kinds of diseases," said Dr. Wood.

Wood says none of the recently suggested policies would reduce the overall cost of healthcare. It would just change how the total health care bill is allocated to different people.

"We have to then find a way that we can recoup some of that money, so one way we would do that is raising prices for everybody," said Dr. Wood. "It only serves to really destabilize the entire market."

The Trump administration argues that because the new tax law eliminates the penalty for not buying insurance, the Supreme Court's previous ruling permitting the mandate as a tax no longer applies. 

While the case still must play out before the nation’s high court, the Justice Department’s decision to not defend the law could create uncertainty for health insurers that sell plans on ACA marketplace.

More recently, the administration looked to loosen rules on short-term health insurance plans that are less expensive but don’t carry the same consumer protections as ACA plans.

"It distorts the market. It might provide some short-term relief for some people because they can buy a skimpy policy with a lower premium, but some time or another, we're all going to pay for it," said Dr. Wood.

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