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Republicans Change Their Pre-Existing Conditions Tune, But It May Be Too Little Too Late for Arizonans

by Deedra Abboud in Political, Social Views, Solutions
July 5, 2020 0 comments

More than 7 million Americans are expected to lose their health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic, while more than 1.5 million are already estimated to have lost coverage.

With about 1.5 million American workers already estimated to have lost coverage after becoming unemployed, an additional 5.7 million are projected by the researchers to lose their coverage by the end of June, as unemployment claims are expected to climb. 

Conservative states that have opposed expanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, are likely to be the hardest hit.

If the Supreme Court completely overthrows the ACA, the individual mandate so loathed by Republican politicians disappears. 

But so do widely popular provisions of the law, including a provision allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26 and the guarantee that insurance providers can’t refuse to cover individuals who have pre-existing conditions — a broad category that includes acne, pregnancy, diabetes, and AIDS.

Rep. Kelli Butler, D-Paradise Valley (LD28), proposed a bill in the 2020 session that would have required all Arizona insurers to cover several essential benefits and provide coverage at the same price to everyone in a geographic area regardless of age, sex, or health status. 

Butler’s bill also would have prohibited insurers from using a person’s health status to establish premiums and from refusing to cover treatment of a pre-existing condition.

The Republican gate-keepers refused to even hear the bill at the Arizona state legislature. 

A bill signed into law this year, sponsored by a Republican Legislator and championed by the Arizona Republican Attorney General, takes effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court rules the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

Funny enough, such a ruling by the Supreme Court would likely come through a case brought by the same Republican Arizona Attorney General, and other state Republican attorneys general, advocating for the US Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. 

The Court could decide as early as this fall.

But the state passage of a pre-existing conditions law shows a change in thinking by Arizona Republicans, who traditionally have fought against it on the grounds of “Free Market.”

These days, covering pre-existing conditions is one area where Arizona conservatives and liberals agree.

Patients with pre-existing conditions consistently criticize the new Arizona law as doing nothing to stop insurers from charging them high premiums because of their conditions or refusing to cover the care they need. 

The Republican Legislative sponsor disputes his bill could be interpreted that way and points to the Arizona Republican Attorney General’s claim that the new law combined with prior state price-gouging law would prevent it. 

An interesting claim considering the Republican Arizona Governor and Republican Arizona Attorney General were publicly arguing in March over whether an executive order grants the power to prosecute price gougers in the middle of a pandemic where “capitalist” hoarding and price gouging are on the rise.

“The Attorney General’s Office does not have authority to enforce price-gouging protections under existing consumer protection laws,” Ryan Anderson, a top aide to Attorney General Mark Brnovich, said. 

He added, “There is no prohibition in existing statute that would prevent a business or an individual from engaging in price gouging tactics.” 

Arizona is at least the 14th state since 2018 to enact legislation on pre-existing conditions. 

States including Washington and New Mexico have broad laws that preserve a number of Affordable Care Act protections.

Others, like Florida and Indiana, have laws that more closely resemble Arizona’s new statute, simply prohibiting insurers from excluding patients because of pre-existing conditions.

The Republican Legislator said he’s willing to revisit the legislation next year — provided doing so “doesn’t stir up a hornet’s nest.”

But a decision by the US Supreme Court this fall would affect the 2021 insurance plan year. 

And addressing it at the Arizona state legislature in the Spring of 2021 would be too late to help Arizonans with pre-existing conditions today. 

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