Montana group advocating for ACA protections for preexisting conditions

Posted at 11:11 AM, Jun 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-25 13:11:56-04

HELENA – A new Montana group is advocating for maintaining provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require insurance companies to provide coverage for people with preexisting conditions.

Protect Our Care Montana, a local group aligned with a nationwide coalition, held an event Friday morning at PureView Health Center in Helena, to highlight those aspects of the federal health care law, commonly known as Obamacare. Several people who have preexisting conditions spoke about what the law has meant for them.

“We cannot go back; the stakes are too high,” said Kim Leighton. “People with diabetes and cancer shouldn’t have to worry about losing their health insurance due to a preexisting condition and the need for these medications that save their lives.”

A group of 20 states, including Texas, filed suit earlier this year, asking a federal court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The states argue that, after Congress eliminated a financial penalty for not having health insurance, the rest of the law is unworkable.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a legal brief saying it would not defend the ACA and suggested two key provisions dealing with preexisting conditions are unconstitutional without the penalty.

That includes “guaranteed issue,” which says insurers cannot deny coverage to someone because of their medical history, and “community rating,” which says they cannot set premiums based on health history.

“If the Department of Justice prevails and the protections from the ACA for people with preexisting conditions are gone, they will be gone overnight,” said Monica Lindeen, Montana’s former insurance commissioner and one of the founding members of Protect Our Care Montana.

Lindeen said more than 425,000 Montanans live with preexisting conditions and could be denied coverage or have to pay higher premiums if the ACA provisions are overturned.

PureView executive director Jill Steeley said the loss of ACA protections could also make it harder for community health centers like hers.

“I am very worried we will not be able to continue providing the care that we provide to our patients,” she said.

Steeley said, before the health care law was passed, about 30 percent of PureView patients were uninsured. PureView provided care for those patients at a sliding fee scale based on income, but Steeley said much of that care came at a financial loss for the center.

Today, PureView leaders said about 41% of their patients have preexisting conditions.