Chris Jennings is 66, retired, and lives on social security income of $1,200 per month.
In June, Jennings went to the hospital with blood clots in her lungs and stayed there for four days.
That’s a preexisting condition, which could make Jennings ineligible for private health insurance if the Affordable Care Act goes away.
The medication she’s taken since for the blood clots would also cost $485 a month without the ACA, she said.
Timothy Morris of Eugene lost his job in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he spends sleepless nights wondering whether he should sell the car or keep it because he may need to live in it if he can’t make the rent.
Morris said having health insurance under the ACA gives him one less problem to lose sleep over.
He watched his mother struggle with medical bills before she died, and said those kitchen table discussions changed dramatically after the ACA passed.
“It’s a night and day kind of difference,” he said.
Jennings and Morris were among the everyday ACA beneficiaries who joined U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio on Thursday in a discussion about what could happen if the Supreme Court overturns the act.
The court is only two weeks away from a hearing on the act’s constitutionality.
The court is expected to take up Texas v. California one week after the election. The court has been asked to decide whether the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional. It will also consider the possibility that just parts of the act are unconstitutional, such as the protection of those with preexisting conditions.
The case was filed by a group of plaintiff states, led by Texas, that oppose the ACA. Another group of states, led by California, is defending the ACA.
President Donald Trump’s administration has sided with the plaintiffs in opposition to the ACA. His recent Supreme Court appointment of Amy Coney Barrett has raised concerns among ACA supporters like DeFazio that the entire act may be thrown out.
“And there is no immediate replacement,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio said if that happens, 73,000 people in his Fourth Congressional District would immediately lose their insurance — people who had received expanded Medicaid under the ACA through the Oregon Health Plan. The Fourth District includes Douglas and Lane Counties, along with most of Southwestern Oregon.
If the specific protection for people with preexisting conditions is thrown out, then another 372,000 in his district could lose their insurance too.
Loss of the ACA would also increase prescription drug costs for many seniors on Medicare Part D. About 155,000 people in his district are on Medicare Part D, he said.
Some Oregonians don’t remember, he said, that Oregon Health Plan membership used to be determined via a lottery.
“Every year, tens of thousands of people were not allowed to get on the plan because they didn’t win the lottery,” he said.
The ACA ended the lottery and gave the state the resources to extend OHP to all who were eligible.
Round table participant Donna Courtney, formerly an insurance underwriter, said people with conditions ranging from weight issues to prediabetes to osteoporosis could be denied insurance if the preexisting condition protection goes away.
She said contracting COVID-19 would also become a preexisting condition.
She said she found some people were denied insurance because of a condition recorded in a doctor’s notes that they didn’t even know about.
“To go back to those days would really be just so catastrophic, and I think people just simply don’t realize what that looks like,” she said.
DeFazio said these are life and death issues for people in his district.
DeFazio, up for reelection this year, also pointed out his opponent Alek Skarlatos opposes the Affordable Care Act.
While that’s true, Skarlatos has also said he wants to protect people with preexisting conditions.
But DeFazio said neither Skarlatos nor the Republicans nor President Trump have put forward a plan to do that.
“The president said, ‘Well I’ll have something better, much better, much better, it’ll be fabulous. Everybody will have better insurance and it will cost less.’ Well he’s had 4 years in the White House and there’s no plan,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio said if the ACA is thrown out, he would push for a better version of the bill. He favored the House version rather than the Senate version that ultimately passed, he said. The House version had a national health care exchange and removed the health insurance industry’s antitrust immunity.