Ohio Dems push bipartisan health care bill as federal court rules against ACA individual mandate

By: - December 23, 2019 12:45 am

Ohio Democrats are urging the legislature to move on a house bill after a federal court decision impacted a provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week in Texas v. United States that the part of the Affordable Care Act which requires every American to have health insurance or risk a penalty is unconstitutional. It sent the rest of the lawsuit back to the original court under which it was filed to rule on whether the whole law is unconstitutional.

With the decision coming so late in the year, it’s unlikely the case would reach the U.S. Supreme Court for a decision in 2020, though the case may still end up there.

The penalty had already been zeroed out by the U.S. Congress as part of tax reform efforts, effectively eliminating it as of Jan. 1, 2019.

There were some state officials who spoke out in support of the court decision. State Attorney General Dave Yost said the ruling supported the state’s legal position — that the mandate was illegal, but the remainder of the law should continue being enforced.

“Ohioans can breathe easier tonight,” Yost said in a statement. “The Court agreed with Ohio’s argument and only struck down the bad part of the law, deciding to cut out the tumor rather than kill the patient.”

But now that the Affordable Care Act faces further court challenges, Ohio legislators say it’s time to pass a state bill that would preserve pre-existing conditions protections for Ohioans.

House Bill 390 has bipartisan cosponsors, and would maintain coverage for pre-existing conditions and “essential health benefits” like preventative care, hospitalization, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drugs, lab and pediatric services.

The bill would also limit insurance premiums and ban yearly and lifetime limits, according to the bill language.

“It is critical, now more than ever, that this bill pass since this litigation will continue to create uncertainty whether health care options will exist for those suffering from pre-existing conditions,” said state Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, a primary sponsor of the bill with state Rep. Randi Clites, D-Ravenna.

Gov. Mike DeWine has said he supports protecting pre-existing condition coverage, but as attorney general he was part of a multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ACA. On his campaign website, DeWine called the law “federal overreach” specifically because of the individual mandate.

While DeWine had no new comment on the decision, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said he would be “prepared to look at” protections for pre-existing conditions and other provisions of the law if it were to be repealed federally.

“But we do have to look at what can be done at a state level,” said Dan Tierney, spokesperson for DeWine, adding that Medicaid managed care plans are regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor, not by the state.

The Legislative Service Commission said HB 390 might increase the Department of Insurance’s administrative costs, but the costs “may be minimal.”

Supporters of the bill testified in a Dec. 10 hearing in the House Insurance Committee. The Ohio Coalition for Health Coverage, Equitas Health, Susan G. Komen Columbus and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society were among those that spoke in support of the bill.

No other hearings have been scheduled. 

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.