“I don’t care if people are sick of me saying it over and over again; This is bad for America, this is bad for Pennsylvania,” Casey said on a call with reporters and advocates for the ACA Wednesday morning, adding he wants to “make people aware of what’s at stake here.”
Casey, who serves in the Democratic minority in the Senate, is powerless to stop the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee from confirming President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, before the election.
Democratic lawmakers, including Casey, have suggested that Barrett, a conservative appeals court judge, could uphold a lower court decision that says the ACA is unconstitutional if she’s confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Nov. 10, when the justices are set to hear arguments in the case.
“The Affordable Care Act is in grave, grave danger,” Casey said.
One of President Barack Obama’s signature pieces of legislation, the ACA, also known as “Obamacare”, was passed in 2010 and mandated that every adult have health insurance or pay a fee. That mandate has since been repealed by the 2017 GOP tax bill. According to a 2019 study from the Urban Institute, Pennsylvania would be one of the hardest hit states if the ACA were to be repealed.
The ACA also prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, such as Pat Halpin-Murphy, a breast cancer survivor and president and founder of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.
She said if the ACA was overturned her treatment for lymphedema wouldn’t be covered, and millions of Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions — including COVID-19 — would have to pay out of pocket for treatment.
“It is a human tragedy,” she said on the call with Casey. “It is an outrage.”
The ACA also allowed states to expand Medicaid eligibility, something Pennsylvania did in 2015. Casey said if Democrats take the Senate and the White House this November, he wants to focus on further expanding Medicaid and helping more Americans be covered.
He said Republicans don’t have a plan for replacing the ACA if it disappears, although some in the GOP, including Trump, have insisted they would still protect patients with preexisting conditions if the ACA Obamacare were overturned.
“They don’t give a damn about this issue,” Casey said. “All they want to do is overturn it and move on.”
Casey said he hadn’t discussed the Supreme Court nomination with U.S. Sen. Pat Tooney (R-Lehigh) who said last month he would support filing the vacant seat this year, saying there was “no reason to delay filling this vacancy” despite opposing a Senate confirmation vote for Judge Merrick Garland by Obama in 2016, eight months before the presidential election.
Toomey, who has opposed Obamacare and voted for its repeal in the Senate, recently announced he was retiring at the end of his term in 2022.
Marie Albiges covers Philadelphia and its suburbs as a correspondent for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared. Follow her on Twitter @MarieAlbiges.