A panel of Michigan health care advocates said a recent federal court decision striking down part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the latest in a “continuous assault” on health care by Republicans since the law was signed 13 years ago.
Organized by Protect Our Care Michigan, the webinar included state Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), Anita Fox, Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) director, and Nicole Wells Stallworth, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan executive director.
They discussed U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s March 30 decision in Braidwood Management v. Becerra to strike down a major provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so that health insurance companies would no longer need to cover a wide swath of preventive health care services that were previously required.
Among those services no longer guaranteed free access were breast cancer screenings, colorectal and other cancer screenings, anxiety and depression screenings for children and adults, heart disease screenings, intimate partner violence screenings, and access to PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which can reduce the chance of contracting HIV.
Protect Our Care Michigan said in 2020 alone, more than 150 million Americans benefited from these preventive services.
Rogers, a practicing physical therapist who chairs the Health House Policy Committee, said that early detection of breast cancer or heart disease is often the difference between life and death, especially for lower income individuals and communities of color across Michigan who may be forced to put off testing because they are no longer fully covered.
“This disastrous Braidwood ruling in Texas creates a precedent and could end access to no cost preventative services across the country, including here in Michigan,” she said. “The ruling will only further widen health care disparities in underserved communities across our state and the country as well. Some members of my committee and a number of my colleagues have been discussing draft legislation to place many of the most popular elements of the Affordable Care Act into Michigan law.”
Rogers said the decision has given new urgency to fully incorporate into state law ACA provisions such as prohibiting discrimination in insurance availability and allowing coverage for dependents up to age 26. Included in the proposed package would be legislation to help ensure patients aren’t penalized by insurers for preexisting conditions and create health care protections for sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
“We cannot afford to make preventative health care an afterthought in Michigan or anywhere else in the country for that matter, and we must protect access to no cost preventative health services for all Michiganders to make sure that they get the health care they need and deserve,” said Rogers.
Fox said it was immediately clear the Braidwood decision would jeopardize people’s health and that’s why Gov. Gretchen Whitmer immediately directed her department to issue guidance so Michiganders were aware of which preventive care services were affected; work with Michigan’s health insurers to ensure families continue to have affordable coverage; and develop recommendations for other ways the state can ensure Michiganders receive preventative health care.
“In addition to this, the insurance industry also stepped up knowing that preventative health care saves lives and lowers the cost of care,” she said. “We were pleased to announce that soon after the decision came out, 100% of our state regulated fully insured health plans voluntarily agreed to maintain no cost preventative care coverage throughout the legal process.”
Fox said Michigan is the first and only state to secure commitments from 100% of its market, providing much needed protection and peace of mind for more than 2.1 million Michiganders.
Wells Stallworth described the Braidwood decision as another attack on access to reproductive health care.
“Since the United States Supreme Court made the decision to throw out nearly 50 years of precedent and overturn Roe v. Wade, we’ve been fighting to restore reproductive freedom in Michigan and to safeguard access to sexual and reproductive health care,” she said.
“Just recently, we’ve seen a politically motivated lawsuit coming out of Texas that threatens access to medication abortion across the country. And it’s not just abortion access that is being threatened. The Braidwood decision threatens access to essential preventative sexual and reproductive health care, including HIV prevention and cancer screenings, and so many other preventative health care [procedures].”
Rogers reiterated that the Texas decision calls into question much more than preventative care.
“Of course, the preventative care is what was identified in this decision, but it really underscores the need to codify into Michigan state law many of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including coverage for preexisting conditions, which many of us have coverage for our dependent children historically up to age 26, prevention of any kind of discrimination against individuals, particularly with sexual orientation, gender and gender identity,” she said.
“So that is what my colleagues and I have been working on for the last several months. You’ll see something very soon being brought forward, because this decision has really put this into the forefront.”
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