Hospitals, economists join 20 AGs in ACA court fight 

Attorney General Dana Nessel | Susan J. Demas

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced on Thursday that a coalition of health care providers, economists, insurance companies and hospitals have joined court action to save the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As the Advance has previously reported, 20 states have filed amicus briefs in defense of the ACA as it faces being overturned after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled part of the ACA unconstitutional. The suit is back by President Trump’s Justice Department.

Gilda Z. Jacobs

The groups joined the 20 state attorneys general and District of Columbia to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and argue that the ACA is necessary to the health and well-being of the United States.

Nessel participated in a roundtable discussion in Lansing with other ACA supporters on Thursday. The discussion revolved around the “thousands of Michiganders who are one medical crisis away from financial disaster,” as President of the Michigan League for Public Policy President and CEO Gilda Jacobs put it.

Jacobs said during the roundtable the ACA has acted as a “lifeline” for many people and dismantling it would have a “domino effect” on the economy in Michigan.

According to Jacobs, since the ACA passed in 2010:

  • The rate of uninsured Michiganders has dropped by 45%
  • 4.4 million Michiganders with pre-existing conditions gained health insurance
  • More than 30,000 jobs were created as a result of the expansion to Medicaid allowed under the ACA

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Women and young people have greatly benefited from the ACA, Jacobs added. Before the ACA, women in Michigan were being charged 32% more for insurance coverage than their male counterparts. Now 70,000 people younger than 26 are able to stay on their parents insurance, where they otherwise would have had to get their own.

Older Americans need the protections required by the ACA as well, former AARP Michigan President Eric Schneidewind added. Repealing the ACA would remove the protection for Americans to not be denied for coverage due to pre-existing conditions. If that protection was lost, it would be a “disaster for older Americans,” he said.

Patients with common conditions like heart or kidney disease, asthma or diabetes could be denied coverage without the ACA. Erich Ditschman, a member of the National Kidney Association and one of the over one million adults in Michigan living with kidney disease talked about the financial savings of accessing early healthcare.

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Ditschman said once kidney disease has set in, patients don’t really get rid of it, but it can be prevented or the progression can be slowed down. Under the ACA patients have been able to screen for kidney disease and receive the care necessary to stave off the need to go on dialysis where the real cost lies.

Kidney disease can be managed. People living with it can live long lives with the help of dialysis or transplants, Ditschman said. It’s not necessarily about “surviving” or “dying” from the disease, but being able to access the healthcare necessary to live a fulfilled life.

“I’ve found a way to thrive, while still having kidney disease, even though I’ve had two failed [kidney] transplants, one provided by my wife,” Ditschman said.

Without health insurance, many families have been forced into decisions to get testing or other medical procedures or pay rent or other bills. Nessel said years ago, she was told by a doctor that one of her sons might need an MRI. At the time she couldn’t afford health insurance and had to make the same decision other uninsured families have had to make.

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“I’m actually grateful; that just helps me understand now the struggles and how incredibly important that is and I don’t want any parent to have to look at their child to have to make a life or death decision that is based on nothing more than their ability to afford health insurance,” Nessel said.

Upholding public health has been a big topic to Nessel as she made commitments to upholding environmental and public health during her campaign and has supported efforts it mitigating PFAS contamination, managing the opioid crisis and protecting public health. Nessel said on her list of things she wants to accomplish, she hasn’t crossed off everything, but by the end of her term she hopes to say that she has.