The Affordable Care Act endured immense scrutiny before passage and has withstood almost a decade of attacks to protect patients from big corporations. Versions of the federal law that would come to be known as the Affordable Care Act were approved by both chambers of Congress in 2009, and then once more by each chamber in 2010 before being signed into law in the spring of 2010. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law in its entirety.
No one who supports the enactment of landmark health care reform will tell you that the law is perfect. Improvements must be made and additional legislation is needed to focus squarely on issues like the rising cost of prescription drugs. This is how progress nearly always happens. It takes too long for too many. It doesn’t solve every problem with the snap of the fingers. It faces legal challenges by defenders of the previous status quo.
But make no mistake, the Affordable Care Act expanded access to health insurance to millions of Americans, fundamentally reshaped how patients receive care and improved outcomes for our families.
Critically, the Affordable Care Act ended discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions and ensured every health care plan covered essential services like annual check-ups.
This makes the actions of current Republican office holders all the more absurd. Foiled at every turn, Republican officials, including right here in Wisconsin, have resorted to sabotaging the progress made on health care through non-traditional means. They slipped a provision meant to undermine the health law into legislation re-writing the tax code. Used administrative rules to undermine the consumer protections embedded into reform. And they launched yet another wasteful lawsuit against a law which was already upheld by the highest court in the land.
The Republican agenda on health care is clear: reforms out; junk in.
That is how independent experts describe the plans Republicans are now trumpeting as their plan on health care — as “junk.” These plans fail to deliver the essential services required under the Affordable Care Act and favor special interests, tax cuts for the wealthy and increased out-of-pocket costs on working families and seniors.
These “junk” plans represent a step backwards for Wisconsin families. Worse, they are not the only step Republican officials are attempting to take. Gov. Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel recently launched another attack on the Affordable Care Act in court. If their suit succeeds, every consumer protection enacted under the law would be invalidated.
Let’s be clear about what that means. This lawsuit threatens to take us back to the days when families suffering from serious illnesses, individuals with pre-existing conditions and older adults living on a fixed income will lose coverage through no fault of their own.
Cancer survivor? Diabetic? Asthmatic? Each of these ailments facing thousands of Wisconsinites would once again mean extraordinary out of pocket costs for health insurance or needing to go without insurance at all.
Moving backwards has never been the Wisconsin way. We are a state that moves forward. In order to build on the progress made under the Affordable Care Act — which was enacted exactly the way our system of government intended — Republican officials should insist that any health insurance plan offered in Wisconsin include all of the consumer protections currently embedded in federal law and walk away from their lawsuit that seeks to re-introduce discrimination into the health care system.
Health care coverage is a personal and needed aspect to our quality of life and consumers must know the coverage they pay for will be there when it’s needed. When Republicans shortchange the patient, they shortchange the system, and we all feel the side effects of ill planned reforms.
Sen. Shilling, D-La Crosse, represents portions of western Wisconsin and is the Democratic leader in the Wisconsin state Senate.