Braddock, PA

It’s absurd that in 2018 I even have to consider writing an op-ed defending the Affordable Care Act.

Since it was enacted the ACA has provided coverage to an additional 479,000Pennsylvanians and medical bankruptcies in the commonwealth have dramatically decreased.

Because of the ACA, insurers can no longer deny coverage to the 5,329,500 Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions, they can no longer cut coverage off when an arbitrary limit is reached, they can no longer refuse to cover essential benefits like cancer care, maternity care and substance abuse treatment, and they can no longer charge women more based on their gender.

And thanks to Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid and now we’re seeing earlier cancer diagnoses, more medical treatment for opioid use disorders, enhanced health care access in rural communities, and a reduction in health disparities.

As the mayor of Braddock, Pa., in Allegheny County, I can tell you that people in my city (and people just like them all over the commonwealth) do not want all this taken away from them.

Unfortunately, federal appellate Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court makes that a very realistic scenario. As a result, we’re going to need U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., to take a stand.

Republicans in Washington, D.C. have been clear they want the ACA – and all the consumer protections that come with it – gone.

Nineteen Republican attorneys general have sued to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which would rip coverage away from 5,329,500 Pennsylvanians essentially overnight.

The writing is on the wall.

Kavanaugh’s nomination is just a continuation of this effort.

Kavanaugh has already proven to be biased against health care, giving speeches critical of Chief Justice John Roberts for upholding the Affordable Care Act, issuing opinions opposing no-copay birth control coverage, arguing that a president can invalidate a law they don’t agree with, and — astonishingly — keeping a teenager pregnant against her will.

Kavanaugh’s record shows he is not able to provide fair-minded decisions on any number of the many health care related cases working their way through the courts right now – and that’s a scary thought.

These cases involve many of the health care matters closest to the American people: protections for people with pre-existing conditions; complex Medicaid rules designed to kick people off of their insurance; rollbacks on affordable birth control; and numerous Republican state actions to restrict patients’ access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers.

Some have suggested that the stakes for Pennsylvanians really aren’t that high.

Lately, Congressional Republicans have argued that Chief Justice John Roberts is a safe vote in favor of health care, meaning that the majority that upheld consumer protections previously remains in place if the law reaches the Supreme Court again. But Roberts has voted against the ACA before, and when casting his single vote in favor of the law, the federal government was defending federal law.

It’s far from guaranteed he will take the same position now that the government itself is seeking to overturn it.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, he could very easily use his power to delete the Affordable Care Act.

This, in turn, would end protections for Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions; re-implement lifetime limits on Pennsylvanians’ care; let insurance companies charge Pennsylvania women more than men, and end mandated coverage of essential benefits on which Pennsylvanians depend like cancer care, such maternity care, and substance abuse treatment.

Kavanaugh would, once again, allow Pennsylvanians’ care to be placed in the hands of wealthy insurance executives.

Casey took a strong position opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation for many of the reasons outlined here. In contrast, Toomey has been supportive of him so far.

As the mayor of Braddock, I know that regardless of who is in charge in Washington, it’s incredibly important that we be prepared here at the local level.

Now, more than ever, it’s time for local leaders to step up and stake out strong positions and create policies to protect our care – not just for those with pre-existing conditions and for women, but for all Pennsylvanians.

This article first appeared on Pennlive

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