Gov. Wolf Reminds Pennsylvanians that We Must Protect the ACA Amid COVID

Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Bucks County state legislators Rep. Wendy Ullman and Sen. Steven Santarsiero today to discuss the importance of preserving the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so it can continue to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that when one person is unable to access necessary health care, that puts all of us at risk,” Gov. Wolf said. “During a pandemic when our nation is facing a highly contagious, airborne virus that spreads rapidly when people gather together, it is even more concerning that not all Pennsylvanians have access to health care coverage, especially for the most vulnerable, including those with pre-existing conditions who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19.”

While President Trump has publicly said that he would not remove health care for those with pre-existing conditions, his actions belie those statements. More than 5 million Pennsylvanians with pre-existing health conditions could lose coverage if Trump-backed lawsuits repeal the ACA.

For some Pennsylvanians, known as long-haulers, COVID is already having long-term, adverse effects on their health as they continue to experience symptoms and side effects from COVID weeks and months after their initial illness.

COVID-19 threatens to be the epitome of a pre-existing condition. It affects, at the least, the lungs, the heart, the kidneys, the brain, the immune system, and the limbs. And if pre-existing condition protections under the ACA are stripped away, coverage for health care associated with any of these organs and systems could be excluded from our neighbors, friends and families who have already had to fight the virus.

If a robust, accessible and affordable health care system is necessary in non-pandemic times, its importance cannot be overstated during a pandemic.

House and Senate Democrats in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly are also working to safeguard access to affordable health care coverage in Pennsylvania and have introduced a series of bills to preserve essential health benefits, to require coverage for pre-existing conditions, to guarantee continued coverage for adult children, and to end lifetime and annual caps on coverage – all protections currently guaranteed by the affordable care act.

“In the midst of uncertainty over whether the upcoming Supreme Court decision will remove a key component of the Affordable Care Act, we are also faced with a grim certainty,” Rep. Ullman said. “If the current Washington administration continues for four more years, the entire protective structure of the Affordable Care Act will be dismantled.

“The ACA has offered protections to whole populations who previously hadn’t been able to get insurance due to pre-existing conditions. COVID-19 has taught us that many people with preexisting conditions are those who are most vulnerable to complications, hospitalizations and fatal outcomes if they become infected with the virus. They are our parents, our grandparents, our friends, our children, and ourselves. We must preserve the protections of the ACA for the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

“The Affordable Care Act is currently under threat at the federal level, putting access to health care at risk for millions of Pennsylvanians,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “It will be up to us on the state level to protect Pennsylvanians and ensure they continue with the coverage they have basic and critical coverage. The Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have been promoting four key bills that would do just that. It is time to put the health of all Pennsylvanians first, and pass this important legislation.”

The governor was also joined by Anna Payne, 32, who works for Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia, and has battled cystic fibrosis every day of her life. She is worried that if the ACA is repealed, she will spend the rest of her life battling insurance companies to get covered because she has a pre-existing condition.

“My administration has steadfastly opposed any efforts to undermine the ACA, which provides needed health care coverage to more than one million Pennsylvanians who otherwise could not afford health insurance,” Gov. Wolf said. “I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the health and safety of Pennsylvanians, as well as their right to affordable and accessible health care coverage that does not penalize or discriminate against those who have pre-existing conditions.”