Senator Bob Casey is fighting to preserve health care.
Friday morning, he met with members of Adagio Health in New Castle to discuss three threats aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act and to stress his willingness to prevent it from happening as the number of people enrolling for health care has dropped.
Enrollment, Casey said, is down 30 percent during the first week than it was last year, as he claims health care is under attack by people who want to “destroy, dismantle and defund” the ACA.
“If people in Pennsylvania and Washington get tired of me saying it, there are three threats to health care because of one administration and one party,” Casey said. “I wish I didn’t have to say that. I wish I could say this was a bi-partisan failure and we’ve all got some work to do in regard to these threats.”
Casey, who is a Democrat U.S. senator, said the issue is a one-party problem.
“You have an administration, aided and abetted by Republicans in both the House and the Senate, who tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act and failed,” Casey said. “Then they succeeded in passing a tax bill where they gave a gut punch to the Affordable Care Act.”
The lawsuit, Texas v. United States, could affect the entire health care system if a lower court ruling that the health law is unconstitutional is upheld. The lawsuit came about after Republicans passed a tax cut bill in 2017 which included the elimination of the penalty included in the act to maintain health insurance coverage.
“This lawsuit will wipe out everything,” Casey said. “It is in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and it succeeded. Any day, any week now, this lawsuit could be decided.”
Casey said the second threat against health care is what he deemed “junk plans” and sabotage.
“Sabotage is working, 1.9 million fewer people are insured than two years ago,” Casey said.
Casey said it is “outrageous that any administration, or any Congress, would even propose cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.”
“When politicians are supporting policies that threaten health care when they are destroying health care through the lawsuit, when they are dismantling it through sabotage and defund it through the budget cuts, any politician that is doing any of these three things should pay a price,” Casey said. “I don’t care if that sounds partisan, divisive, this is wrong to allow any member of Congress to support these policies and not make people aware of it.
“The good news is — we are going to have an election. The American people are going to decide whether or not they support this destroy, dismantle or defund. That is what elections are all about.”
Casey urged health care consumers to visit healthcare.gov when signing up for coverage to pick the proper coverage, to be aware of search engines and how the search engines display advertisements, checking the website address before clicking on a link and pay attention to words used in the website title and description.
“As a public official and a citizen, I am going to make sure every Pennsylvanian that I can speak to will know what is at stake,” Casey said. “You can’t allow all this information to be kept from people. We are not talking about it enough.
“I would much rather talk about lowering health care costs and getting the cost of prescription drugs down. That is what I would like to be spending my time on. As long as these three threats are on the table, I am going to fight like hell to stop them, to stop any of these things from moving forward.”
Drew Pierce, an official with Primary Health Network, spoke to Casey about how the organization treats patients who are “worried about where they are going to eat, where they are going to sleep before health care.”
“Not only do we take care of a large portion of the population, but we have proven over time that we do it with excellent quality care indicators and we do it at a cost that is much less than the private sector,” he said.
Denise Johnson, who leads Meadville Medical Center, said her location “treats patients regardless of their ability to pay throughout our health system.”
“We are trying to do more population health and keep them out of the hospital and give them that preventative health care,” Johnson said. “Patients without insurance or a high deductible plan don’t have access to those preventative services. They can’t afford them. It is hard to make that change to keep out of the hospital when they don’t have the coverage for preventative services.”
Casey told Adagio Health’s leadership and employees they are fighting the good fight.
“Anyone involved in healing and helping people get through their life, get help to pull themselves back together is doing important work,” Casey said. “You should be very proud that you have chosen that way to spend a good part of your life.”