What image comes to your mind when you hear the word “Texas”? Do you see cowboys and old Westerns? Do you see Ted Cruz boarding a plane to Mexico while over half of his constituents were sitting in the dark without heat or water? Perhaps you see a stadium full of COVID deniers watching their baseball team lose their home opener. When I think of Texas I think of millions of uninsured Americans and a State government that not only doesn’t care about its citizens, but for some unexplained reason, feels compelled to drag the rest of the country down to their citizen’s level of health care insecurity.
This blog has extensively covered the Texas Lawsuit, the effort by the Attorney General of Texas, a number of other Republican Attorneys of State, and the previous administration to declare the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) unconstitutional. That case was argued before the US Supreme Court last November. We should have a decision soon. But one attempt to disrupt the country’s health insurance is not enough.
Chances are that your health insurance coverage includes Preventive Care. Preventive Care is defined by HealthCare.gov as “Routine health care that includes screenings, check-ups, and patient counseling to prevent illnesses, disease, or other health problems.” The goal is to keep Americans healthy, to prevent certain illnesses or to catch those medical conditions at an early stage which might improve the odds of a positive outcome. The benefit was designed to be provided at no charge to the patient. And the list of covered services is extensive. As this article from Kaiser Health News notes, “These changes have made it more affordable for Americans to get a wide range of services, such as cancer screenings, contraception, HIV prevention drugs, vaccines, tobacco cessation treatment, alcohol abuse counseling and domestic violence counseling.”
The same article quotes Tim Jost, a retired Washington & Lee University Law Professor.
“It’s billions and billions of dollars of services that Americans get every year, not just from ACA health plans but also from employer plans. If this benefit ends, it would mean a lot of people would forgo preventive services and end up with much worse medical problems.”
It works! Free access to preventive care is allowing some Americans to get annual physicals, vaccines, and have a chance to get/stay healthy. That would appear to run counter to the Texas model. The lead plaintiff, Dr. John Kelley, is a Fort Worth, Texas orthodontist. He and a small group of others have sued to eliminate the Preventive Care benefit from the PPACA. Their suit appears to have been motivated, in large part, by the inclusion of contraception and HIV prevention drugs within the definition of Preventive Care. Birth Control has had a significant impact on the PPACA. It is not a coincidence that this case landed in the court of Judge Reed O’Connor, the judge who has previously ruled that the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act should be dismantled. Though Judge O’Connor’s decisions have been mocked by legal scholars on the Right and the Left, he is a federal judge, appointed for life, and capable of doing untold harm.
The PPACA was signed into law 11 years ago. Since then it has withstood over 50 votes in Congress, most designed not to overturn the law but to empty the pockets of potential campaign supporters. (Yes, the initial bill in January 2011 really was “H.R.2 – 112th Congress (2011-2012): Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act”. This was not serious legislation.) The law has also been upheld by the Supreme Court. Twice! The new strategy is to pick away at the law by filing lawsuits in “friendly” courts. And no court is as friendly as Reed O’Connor’s when it comes to limiting your access to coverage.
It would appear that Texas seeks to infect our insurance, the way most Americans access and pay for health care. We might not be able to prevent that.
Picture – The Texas Option – David L Cunix