MILTON — Even with impeachment and the madness of Washington swirling in the national news cycle, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) was clearly focused on health care when he paid a visit to The Standard-Journal Friday.
During an interview that covered topics from Community Development Block Grant funding, farms and impeachment, Casey led off with challenges to health care and what he’s hearing from those across the commonwealth.
The senator said he’s been spending a lot time discussing health care, not only because of the nature of the issue, but due to the “lack of attention by both parties in Washington, both houses,” said Casey. “It’s mostly my opposition to what the administration and the majority in the Senate... is doing on health care.”
Casey broke it down into three key points: 1. An ongoing legal case in the US District Court for the Northern District of Texas pertaining to the coverage expansions and protections provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA); 2. Sabotage of the ACA; and 3. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the wake of the tax-cut bill.
On the lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit, Casey said he was concerned the result will lead to higher premiums and a lack of consumer protections.
“If it prevails, and it’s more likely to prevail than not, it will wipe out the patient protections of the Affordable Care Act,” said Casey. “With that you’re wiping out not only the coverage gains, which we know exceed 20 million, but it will also wipe out protections for pre-existing conditions and all the other consumer protections that came with it.”
In Northumberland County, thousands of residents gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion. Statewide, about 2/3 of those who gained coverage did so through Medicaid expansion, he said. Locally, that number is higher, especially in Northumberland County, where it’s nearly 3/4, he said.
“The lawsuit would be terrible result for the country,” said Casey. “I think it will affect every American... your premiums are going up. Declaring that whole law unconstitutional is going to create all kinds of chaos we should not let happen.”
Secondly, Casey pointed out the administration’s “ongoing sabotage of the system. It’s one thing to say you support a repeal bill, it’s another to say we’re going to use administrative action to undermine the law.”
He noted advertising for the health care exchanges was cut by 90%, enrollment periods were shrunk, and waivers were allowed for experimentation.
“They’ve taken a series of steps that would have the effect of not allowing, or not providing information to people about the expansion,” said Casey.
The number of insured has shrunk by 1.9 million, as reported by the Census Bureau, Casey said, compared to numbers from 2017.
“We’re headed in the wrong direction with number of people insured, and that number will skyrocket if the lawsuit succeeds,” Casey said.
Lastly, Casey pointed to the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid he linked to the tax bill the administration pushed through.
“The administration proposed cutting Medicare by $845 over 10 years, Medicaid by a lot more than that — 1.5 trillion,” said Casey. “I think the reason they are proposing those cuts is because their tax bill did two things bad for health care — they blew a hole in the deficit and debt over time. The second thing the tax bill did is take away the individual mandate requirement therefore giving the lawsuit the path it has.”
Casey noted the ACA did not do enough to lower costs, something he’s heard repeatedly in Pennsylvania, but he said it’s hard to argue against the gains made by the law. Instead of trying to make the law better, he argued the opposing side has repeatedly try to appeal the law.
“I’m pretty aggressive about it, angry about it and I continue to be,” said Casey. “I’m someone who works with the other party pretty damn hard, but on this I’m not working with them. If they are going to cut these programs and destroy this advancement in health care, I’m going to do everything I can to stop them.”
More from Casey’s discussion will appear in next week’s edition.