A report released yesterday by the Protecting Health Coverage in Louisiana Task Force shows that nearly half a million Louisianans would lose healthcare if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is overturned in the Texas v. United States case.
Gov. John Bel Edwards created the task force in 2019 in response to efforts to repeal ACA protections for Louisianans with pre-existing medical conditions and to overturn the state’s Medicaid expansion.
“The Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but as the report indicates, completely eliminating the program would jeopardize the Medicaid expansion, eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions, and cost the state $3.6 billion in federal funding,” Gov. Edwards said. “The Attorney General’s lawsuit is about political gain, but for hundreds of thousands of Louisianans, it’s about losing access to healthcare and critical health protections. This new report makes it clear: the people of Louisiana and the State of Louisiana simply can’t afford Jeff Landry’s lawsuit.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is one of twenty other plaintiffs in a 2018 lawsuit that argues that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the entire ACA should be struck down as a result. They also note that if the court will not go that far, it should “at the very minimum” strike down the protections for individuals with preexisting conditions.
On December 14, 2018, District Judge Reed O’Connor agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the entire law should, therefore, be struck down. However, on December 18, 2019, though the Fifth Circut Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court decision on the individual mandate, they sent the case back to Judge O’Connor for a more thorough analysis of what provisions of the ACA could be severed from the individual mandate, stating:
“It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded. It may be that all of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate. It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some not.”
According to the task force report, approximately 456,000 people are enrolled in Louisiana Medicaid through the Medicaid expansion. Those people would lose their health coverage if the ACA is completely invalidated, and the state would lose the $3.5 billion in federal Medicaid matching funds it receives at the enhanced expansion match rate. The report also shows that more than 14,000 Louisianans could lose their jobs if the Medicaid expansion is dismantled.
In addition to this, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation estimate shows that 932,000 non-elderly adults – or 33 percent of the non-elderly adult population – in Louisiana have a “declinable preexisting condition” according to pre-ACA underwriting practices. These individuals could be denied access to adequate healthcare coverage if the ACA is overturned.
Without further action from Congress or additional funding from the federal government, Louisiana would be left to fill budget holes if the ACA is overturned. It would cost the state more than $536 million to keep pre-existing condition protections and Medicaid coverage for working adults. As a result, Louisiana’s uninsured rate could go from a historic low of eight percent in 2018 to pre-ACA levels of more than 17 percent.
Jenn Bentley is a freelance journalist and writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo News, Wander No More, Big Easy Magazine, and more. In 2019, she was given the title of “Most Fearless” by The Bayou Brief. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_