Thinking ahead to a potential nightmare where the courts may throw out the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare for those that think they are different things,) both Arizona Republicans and Democrats State Senators have offered competing bills to protect people with preexisting health conditions.
Republicans sponsored bill SB 1397. This measure would tell insurance companies in Arizona that they can not deny health insurance coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, this proposal did not include price caps on insurance rates or deductibles for individuals in these circumstances.
This, if it passed and were to become law (only if Obamacare goes away,) would put people in potentially dire financial or health conditions. Perhaps people would face both circumstances and maybe even die because they could not afford to properly treat themselves.
The Democrats offered an alternative SB 1599 that would offer the same Affordable Care Act protections and put caps on the exorbitant price hikes for coverage.
With the Republicans in charge of the State Senate, guess which bill was assigned to a committee for consideration? Guess which bill cleared the committee unanimously?
Republicans led by former State House Speaker (now Legislative District (LD) 17 Senator) JD Mesnard and one of the “worst” legislators in recent Arizona History, LD 11 Senator Vince Leach, ignored the grievances of two Arizona Residents (one who has a preexisting autoimmune disease and another with a child with a preexisting blood disease) who spoke about the concerns for the potential for “price gouging” by the insurance companies.
Mr. Leach, as reported by the Arizona Mirror, said:
“This is no ACA, and was not designed to be a replacement for the ACA.”
The Democrats on the committee voted to move SB 1397 to the Senate Floor.
Democratic LD 18 State Senator Sean Bowie, while (according to reporting by the Mirror) criticizing SB 1397 because it did not provide all the Affordable Care Act protections and created an opportunity for price gouging, ultimately voted for it, calling the measure “better than nothing” but wanted to continue a “larger conversation” on strengthening the bill.
Mesnard, Leach, and the other Republicans, according to the Mirror, do not seem to be interested in prolonging the discussion.
The reaction has been swift from Democratic Party activist groups and candidates running to replace Republican officeholders in the legislature.
Murphy Bannerman of the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) released a statement on February 6 which read:
“Senate Republicans passed SB1397, a watered-down pre-existing conditions bill, out of committee. SB1397 is a last-ditch effort to address the concerns of the 2.8 million Arizonans who have preexisting conditions. Per the Senate Republicans’ fact-sheet, this bill would not go into effect unless their party and Attorney General Mark Brnovich is successful at the repeal of the ACA – an admission that they see Republicans’ desired outcome in the lawsuit as a disaster for Arizonans.”
“Far from securing existing health insurance coverage protection, the GOP plan would allow predatory insurance companies to jack up prices on people with pre-existing health conditions, and it wouldn’t require insurance companies to cover the 10 essential benefits covered under the ACA, including maternity, emergency room, and prescription drug coverage”
“At a committee meeting yesterday, Republican sponsors Sens. Mesnard and Leach admitted that it is by “design.” Sen. Vince Leach stated “This is no ACA, and was not designed to be a replacement for the ACA. […] Adding that he didn’t want the bill to become a “pseudo-ACA.”
“Republicans are admitting that their lawsuit will end pre-existing condition coverage protections for nearly 2.8 million Arizonans and are pushing through a bill that will leave Arizonans exposed to price gouging, predatory insurance companies.”
“Democrats have introduced SB1599 which would cover preexisting conditions, prevent insurance companies from price gouging, and would require insurance companies to cover the 10 essential benefits covered under the ACA, including maternity, emergency room, and prescription drug coverage.”
The Arizona Democratic Party also issued a statement on February 6, 2020, which said in part:
“Rather than call on Attorney General Mark Brnovich to drop his lawsuit to end pre-existing condition coverage protections, Arizona Republicans are hoping to bail themselves out with a watered-down bill that does not fully secure existing coverage protections, and would only go into effect if Brnovich gets his desired outcome of eliminating them.”
“In fact, the GOP bill would not require insurance companies to cover Essential Health Benefits — like maternity, emergency room, and prescription drug coverage — nor would it prevent predatory insurance companies from unfairly jacking up prices on Arizonans who have a pre-existing health condition.”
“Tellingly, Republicans are being quite clear on that point: they are openly admitting that they don’t want to secure existing coverage protections — by “design……..”
“…….Arizonans know that it’s Democrats who are fighting to secure pre-existing condition coverage protections and lower health care costs,” said Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director Herschel Fink. “This unserious GOP plan only underscores that Republicans can’t be trusted on this issue, which is why they’ve spent the past decade looking for opportunities to gut coverage protections and reward their corporate insurance company backers at the expense of Arizonans.”
“In December 2017, U.S. Sen. McSally McSally paved the way for Brnovich’s lawsuit to end pre-existing condition coverage protections. McSally has stood by the suit ever since, claiming that it is not her “role” to stand up for Arizonans’ health care access.”
Sharon Girard, a Democrat running to win a State House seat in LD Eight stated:
“Arizona elected Republicans plan to hurt Arizonans with preexisting conditions by passing SB1397. Should the ACA be defeated this bill would harm the health and welfare of those in our state. As a healthcare provider who worked for 30 years in rural and underserved communities, I saw how my patients struggled to access and afford the care they needed.”
“The phrase “pre-existing condition” does not exist in healthcare. They are words invented by the insurance industry to deny and increase the cost of care. The correct term is “health history”. Most people have or will have issues with their health, many will need life long care and deal with chronic issues. Many health issues will harm or curtail their ability to work, live a productive life and care for their family if they cannot afford the care and medications they need.”
“Our constitution promises we may “pursue happiness” yet how can we if we are not well?”
“If Arizona truly cares about their citizens, they would not promote a bill that would make healthcare too costly and out of reach for many. Until we fight for all of us in our great state and support the ability for all to live a healthy life, we will harm the ability to move our state forward for a bright future.”
“We need to tell everyone in Arizona we have your back. We want you to live a good life, care for your family and support our economy. We should be moving towards an affordable accessible healthcare system in Arizona.”
“We must reject any plan which leaves people without the affordable care they need to live and prosper.”
Kathleen Honne, the Democratic State House Candidate for LD 22 wrote that:
“It is disappointing, while not surprising, that Arizona GOP legislators are: supporting efforts by the GOP attorney general to repeal the Affordable Care Act, rather than work to strengthen the options available to Arizonans, through a lawsuit that further wastes AZ resources; and simultaneously passing laws that do nothing to help citizens, and create additional opportunities for predatory behavior. It is my hope that female legislators, legislators who are parents and grandparents of girls and frankly anyone of them who cares about the women in their lives seriously considers the ramifications of their vote on this bill. Unfortunately, thinking they will consider all of the vulnerable among us who will be impacted is simply a bridge too far, given their actions to date this session.”
“It is critical that Arizonans utilize the Request To Speak system to add their concerns about bad bills like this prior to them being heard in committee. Visit www.cebv.us for more information.”
Judy Schwiebert, a Democratic State House Candidate for LD 20 relayed:
“Protecting affordable health care for all Arizonans, including the 2.8 million people with pre-existing conditions should be a priority for our state legislators. Unfortunately, SB1397 appears to be a hollow partisan gesture rather than a real solution. Instead, I hope our legislators will together on bills like HB2788 or SB1599 that ensure that insurance companies cover the ten essential health benefits currently required by the ACA – and don’t allow them to exclude someone or spike insurance rates because of a pre-existing condition. None of us ever knows when WE might become that someone.”
LD 23 State Senate Candidate Seth Blattman commented that:
“When presented with two options, our current Republican representatives consistently choose the side of their special interest donors over the side of their constituency and the people of Arizona.”
To ensure insurance coverage to people suffering from pre-existing health conditions is hollow if that legislation does not prevent insurance companies from charging these individuals whatever they want to charge for that protection.
It is like a loan shark giving the person who can not get a conventional loan at a bank an extremely high-interest funding alternative that compounds daily because they have no choice
Leach and Mesnard, as one of the Residents at the Committee hearing testified, should try living in that situation for a couple of months and see how they like it.
The one saving grace is that the lawsuit regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) still has several layers of the court system to go through.
Hopefully, if Democrats campaign on how bad this local Republican plan hurts people along with other Republican schemes in Congress to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (as well as gutting Obamacare,) then there will be new Democratic majorities at the Arizona State Legislature and the Nation’s Capitol along with a new leader in the Oval Office.
Then they can have the larger conversation Senator Bowie wants and the Democrats can advance an agenda that helps people.
The November 3, 2020 Elections are only 268 days away.
Remember to turn out and vote if you believe health care is a right and Arizonans should not have to fear financial ruin or, worse, death if they can not afford the cost of their medication.