CONCORD – Rep. Annie Kuster is urging President Donald Trump and her Republican colleagues to abandon their focus from doing away with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and instead extend access to affordable, available health care to every American.
The congresswoman joined a virtual round table discussion with addiction medicine specialists, treatment and recovery providers and individuals in recovery from across the state to discuss the addict crisis in New Hampshire amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the ongoing threat posed by the Texas v. United States lawsuit relative to the ACA that also threatens recovery resources. Vice President of Policy with New Futures Jake Berry facilitated the discussion.
“It’s unconscionable that President Trump and congressional Republicans continue fighting in court to eliminate the Affordable Care Act even as we are in the midst of combating a once in a lifetime, let’s hope, pandemic with COVID-19,” Kuster said.
The congresswoman also said that treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) often relies on social networks to support those in recovery and that physical distancing is particularly difficult and concerning for those in recovery for addiction. While the expansion of Telehealth options has been seen, Kuster said it must be ensured that Telehealth can be used to treat individuals with SUD and that reimbursements are adjusted accordingly.
Jayme Simoes of Protect Our Care New Hampshire joined the call and said if the Supreme Court finds the ACA is unconstitutional as a whole, then tens of millions of Americans who have gained access to health care coverage from Medicaid expansion and the marketplace will lose that coverage, which includes more than 100,000 people in New Hampshire.
“The end of the ACA could also lead to a huge cost increase for the rest of us in health insurance in the middle of the greatest public health crisis we’ve seen in a century,” Simoes said.
Simoes explained that ending the ACA would overturn Medicaid expansion in 37 states including New Hampshire and the District of Columbia. Simoes said that would not only result in a big increase of uninsured individuals, but states’ would lose up to $135 billion in federal health care funding. Additionally, he added that there is no cost savings to the federal government because it has been estimated that a repeal of the ACA could result in $350 billion of additional Medicare spending.
As for the opioid crisis, Simoes said the ACA has provided greater access to SUD treatment and led to real progress in New Hampshire. He further explained that in December of last year the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit released a decision affirming a lower court ruling that the ACA individual mandate, which was reduced to zero dollars as a result of the 2017 tax cut bill, is no longer considered a tax and therefore, congress has no authority to enforce that mandate. Simoes said that the court found that the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the ACA.
“The Supreme Court has agreed to review three legal questions in this case which are, whether Texas and the other individual plaintiffs have standing to bring a lawsuit to challenge the individual mandate; two, whether the Trump tax cut made the individual mandate unconstitutional; and three, if the mandate is unconstitutional whether the rest of the ACA can survive without it,” Simoes said. “So, the case should be argued in front of the Supreme Court as early as October this year.”
Moreover, as efforts across the state work to continue combating the opioid crisis, Kuster said that Medicaid expansion has been critical to this fight thanks to the ACA. The congresswoman also cited that despite Medicaid being the nation’s largest provider of behavioral health services, this administration’s budget singles out Medicaid and specifically Medicaid expansion for budget cuts.
“So, more than 52 million Americans and 200,000 Granite Staters live with preexisting conditions here in New Hampshire and every single day they are threatened by the attacks by this administration on the Affordable Care Act,” Kuster said.
When the congresswoman thinks about the response to the opioid crisis in the state, she said she cannot begin to imagine where we would be without Medicaid expansion. Moreover, later this week Kuster will be traveling back to Washington, D.C. to vote in the house on the HEROES Act on Friday.