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Herring: We must protect access to affordable health care

Herring: We must protect access to affordable health care

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By Mark Herring

Herring is the attorney general of Virginia. He can be reached at mailoag@oag.state.va.us or (804)786-2071.

In Virginia, nearly 70,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus since the first confirmed case on March 7.

Thanks to our swift implementation and commitment to safety measures, and our successful defense of those measures in court, Virginia is doing better than many other states. Our percentage of positive coronavirus tests remains low, but we are nevertheless facing thousands of new cases each week, and it’s clear that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our commonwealth are far from over.

That’s why we must protect access to affordable health care for all Virginians.

The Affordable Care Act gave health care access to hundreds of thousands of Virginians who would otherwise be left without coverage. As difficult as the last few months have been for Virginia’s families, the health care benefits guaranteed under the ACA provided medical care for those who needed it most in this dire time.

Yet, amid a global pandemic, political attacks aimed at taking away health care from millions of Americans put the ACA at risk. Just a few days ago, the Trump Administration and Republican state attorneys general took their fight against the landmark, lifesaving healthcare law to the Supreme Court, asking the highest court in the land to end the Affordable Care Act in its entirety during the middle of a pandemic.

Their reckless lawsuit puts in jeopardy the ACA’s protections for the newly jobless, Medicaid recipients and Virginians battling COVID-19.

If the ACA were to be eliminated, 642,000 Virginians would lose health care coverage, 3.4 million Virginians would lose protections against pre-existing conditions, and 300,000 Virginians would pay more in the marketplace for health care coverage.

The suit could eliminate an ACA provision that makes it easier to secure compensation for nearly 38,000 former coal miners and their family members in Southwest Virginia and across Appalachia struggling with the devastating impacts of black lung.

Roanoke has made tremendous strides as a community in addressing the opioid crisis, but elimination of the ACA would make it harder for individuals struggling with substance use disorder or opioid addiction to access the treatment and services that are key to successful, sustained recovery.

At a time when thousands of Virginians are facing unemployment and medical complications due to the ongoing pandemic, a loss of health insurance would be nothing short of catastrophic.

It would mean few to no options for securing affordable insurance for thousands of newly unemployed and uninsured Virginians.

For those living with the burden of preexisting conditions, like a cancer survivor or someone fighting diabetes, it would mean once again facing discrimination from the health insurance companies and the denial of lifesaving care.

And for the struggling hospitals operating in the underserved, rural parts of our state, losing the ACA would be an added financial blow during an already difficult time. Southwest Virginia has already faced a rash of hospital closures in recent years, and those that remain continually struggle to keep their doors open.

We cannot allow the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers to continue to play politics with the health of millions of Americans.

As Virginia’s attorney general, I have a responsibility to protect the rights and interests of all Virginians. This is why I’ve stepped up to defend Virginians’ healthcare and the Affordable Care Act against this dangerous lawsuit,

Along with 21 of my fellow attorneys general, we have taken up the responsibility of defending the law that is helping Virginia weather the storm of this pandemic after the Trump Administration walked away from its responsibility.

Virginians are already worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their health, their finances and their personal safety, and they should not have to also worry about the loss of their health care.

Indeed, we should be building upon the progress we’ve already made and endeavor to create a Virginia in which everyone has access to health care.

Millions of Virginians rely on the Affordable Care Act for quality, affordable healthcare and I will not stop fighting to protect them from these reckless, dangerous attacks.

For the sake of the many people in our state struggling with unprecedented disruptions to their lives and livelihoods, we have an obligation to do no less.

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