With Louisiana involved in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, Acadiana lawmakers are looking to protect those who stand to lose their health insurance.
Last year, at the direction of Attorney General Jeff Landry, Louisiana joined 19 other states in challenging the Affordable Care Act.
If the lawsuit is successful, nearly 850,000 people in Louisiana with pre-existing conditions could lose their coverage.
Gov. John Bel Edwards says this legislation is similar to a bill he requested and criticized Landry’s involvement.
The governor says the attorney general is trying to take credit for fixing a problem that he created by involving the state in the lawsuit.
“It’s ironic that the Attorney General wants to try and take credit for fixing a problem that he himself caused by involving the state in a lawsuit that eliminates protections for people with pre-existing conditions, without having a plan in place or consulting with anyone before doing so. Let’s be clear: Jeff Landry endangered the health coverage of almost 850,000 people in Louisiana with pre-existing conditions because he was more concerned with politics than with real people,” said Gov. Edwards. “This bill is very similar to legislation I requested that was filed this week by Representative Chad Brown to make sure that insurance companies cannot discriminate against Louisianans based on their health status. I have always said the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but that the protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions are critically important.”
Here’s Landry’s response:
“It’s disappointing that the governor would criticize us for trying to protect people with pre-existing conditions. The fact of the matter is that we’re here because the law is unconstitutional. The problem is that people who make the same argument that the governor has, would rather our country be based upon unconstitutional and illegal acts in order for us to move our government forward,” said Landry.
On Monday, the attorney general joined State Senator Fred Mills, R-Parks, and House Speaker Taylor Barras, as Mills announced a bill that would make it illegal to deny health care coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
“We wanted to make sure that there was not a gap in coverage for people when it comes to pre-existing conditions, when it talks to benefit allowance, when it talks about the cap,” said Sen. Mills.
The bill also eliminates lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits, allows for healthcare coverage on parent policies for any child until the age of 26, and ensures that any healthcare plan provides for essential benefits including ambulance care, emergency services, maternity and newborn care, hospitalizations, pediatric care, and prescription drugs among other things.
For Louisiana residents, like Lisa Ordes, having proper insurance at an affordable rate could mean the difference between life and death.
“If something were to happen and we lost our coverage, my daughter and I, I don’t know what we would do,” said Ordes.
She was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in 2015. After a double mastectomy, she is now cancer free. But her 15-year-old daughter Kayla has an incurable disease.
“My daughter Kayla has ataxia-telangiectasia. That is basically cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis all rolled into one,” said Ordes.
Her daughter relies on an expensive medication which she needs to take every week.
“Without insurance, you’re looking at about 3 to 4,000 dollars a week,” she said.
For Ordes’ family, the fight to have insurance even with pre-existing conditions is a priority.
“When you’re sick and you’re dealing with it, insurance is high on the list but yet it’s one of the last things you want to worry about because you just want to feel better,” she said.
Ordes says this bill being worked on in the capitol is reassuring for not just her family but the thousands of others going through similar situations.
“9 times out of 10, these people didn’t ask for this. They didn’t ask to have cancer, they didn’t ask to have diabetes or what that condition might be, but they need to be able to have the health care to have the proper treatment,” she said.
The lawsuit challenging the affordable care act is in the appeals process. Meanwhile, lawmakers at the capitol will consider this bill when the session begins next week.