Residents speak to importance of ACA in Hassan round-table

  • During a virtual roundtable on Monday morning, Senator Maggie Hassan spoke with residents in New Hampshire about their concern for the Affordable Care Act. Courtesy photo—

  • During a virtual roundtable on Monday morning, Senator Maggie Hassan spoke with residents in New Hampshire about their concern for the Affordable Care Act. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/16/2020 11:32:03 AM

Senator Maggie Hassan spoke with a round table of residents on Monday to hear their stories about how access to health care through the Affordable Care Act has benefited their lives, and hear their fears about what happens if the ACA is repealed.

“At the end of the day, everybody needs to get health care, and they need to get health care regardless of their pre-existing conditions,” Hassan said during the round table, which took place over the video-conference calling platform Zoom.

The Affordable Care Act is scheduled to be before the Supreme Court following the November elections, to undergo a challenge to its constitutionality. Residents of the state said they didn’t know what their recourse would be if the court finds that the law is not constitutional, and they are potentially left without insurance. Some said they themselves or their children rely on regular medical care, and wouldn’t be able to afford it without health insurance. They also expressed concern about what the alternatives would look like, and whether it would carry protections for people with pre-existing conditions, or have spending caps for individual patients.

Tension is particularly high with confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative who has been critical of the ACA in the past, currently ongoing.

The Affordable Care Act has been challenged on its constitutionality before, and shortly after the elections, is expected to be again. The issue being presented to the Supreme Court is whether, with a component of the law – namely a decision by Congress to eliminate a penalty applied for not having insurance – invalidates the entirety of the law.

In the past, Barrett was critical of other Supreme Court decisions on the Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality, mainly of a decision that the penalty to go uninsured was a tax and within the rights of the legislature to impose. However, during confirmation hearings this week, Barrett said she was not “hostile” toward the Affordable Care Act and had not made any pre-determinations on the current issue facing the court.

Hassan referred to the most recent challenge of the ACA as a “last-ditch effort” to repeal the law, which has been a stated goal of some Republican legislators, including President Donald Trump.

Those who attended Hassan’s roundtable Monday who rely on insurance through the Affordable Care Act said they are very concerned about the future of their health care.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, a founding Executive Director of Granite State Progress, noted that over 100,000 people in New Hampshire could lose insurance without the Affordable Care Act. About 44,000 people purchase their insurance through the marketplace in the state, she said and the remainder were included in an expansion of Medicaid coverage included in the plan. 

Lisa Beaudoin of Temple, the director for ABLE New Hampshire, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, said she sees the problem from two prongs – professional and personal.

Beaudoin said ABLE, a nonprofit, is too small to be able to offer her health insurance, which she purchases through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. If that were not available to her, she would have to leave her job to find something that offers insurance, she said.

She also has major health concerns herself. After a major car crash, Beaudoin had what she called “catastrophic” injuries to both her legs and an arm, which have required a total of eight surgeries and physical therapy to help her re-learn to walk. It’s an example, she said, that everyone is potentially just one incident away from becoming disabled and needing continuous medical care.

“I’m a person who suddenly has a disability,” Beaudoin said.

Also, as an advocate for people with a variety of disabilities, Beaudoin said she worries about losing protections for people with pre-existing conditions. She said the Republican party hasn’t allayed those concerns.

“If they had a plan, we would know about their plan,” Beaudoin said.

Mary Osborne, who herself has pre-existing health conditions and a son on the autism spectrum, said she worries constantly for the health of the community, and the ability for people like her family to access health care.

“We belong in society. We are not throwaways,” she said.

The panel agreed that the Affordable Care Act was not perfect, and several said purchasing insurance and comparing plans needs to be streamlined, but still advocated for keeping the law and strengthening and adjusting it, rather than eliminating it. Residents also called for lower prescription drug prices, particularly for “maintenance” medications which need to be taken long-term or for a lifetime, and more clarity in which procedures are and are not covered under insurance plans to reduce “surprise” medical bills.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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