On Tuesday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and State Senate President Mitch Carmichael announced a new measure designed to protect West Virginians who have pre-existing medical conditions.
We support the passage of the West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act with the belief that everyone deserves access to affordable health insurance and should not be punished for having a pre-existing health condition.
If the measure gains traction in the West Virginia Legislature, the bill promises to ensure “those with pre-existing conditions do not lose their ability to buy health insurance as the federal courts consider a challenge to the constitutionality of the ACA.”
As proposed, the Healthcare Continuity Act would impose a general ban on restricting enrollment in health care coverage based on a pre-existing condition. The measure covers 10 categories of health services, while also mitigating the risk faced by insurers with open enrollment and affiliation periods.
While we support the bill, it does come with a caveat.
“The West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act and its provisions will not take effect unless and until the courts strike down or render substantial portions of Obamacare unconstitutional,” states a press release from Morrisey’s office.
Last July, Morrisey was sharply criticized when he joined a coalition of 18 state attorneys general who signed on to the lawsuit known as Texas v. Azar. The lawsuit, which is close to being ruled on by judges in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, has been referred to as the bill that could totally kill the ACA.
According to the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, “Morrisey signed the state onto [the lawsuit], even though our residents arguably have the most to lose if the Affordable Care Act falls. If successful, it would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act including the extremely successful Medicaid expansion, pre-existing condition protections for all Americans, the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ insurance to the age of 26, the requirement that women no longer be charged more for health coverage than men, and much more.”
When he pulled West Virginia into the lawsuit, Morrisey did reiterate his desire to “protect thousands of working class West Virginians – with and without preexisting conditions – who are suffering financial hardships because of Obamacare, since without action, household budgets cannot continue to sustain such pressure.”
Morrisey is also hoping the bill will get bipartisan support and earn quick passage in the legislature in the same manner in which a similar bill was passed last year in Louisiana.
Now, as Congress wallows in partisan gridlock and makes no attempt to offer a legitimate bill that would improve the Affordable Care Act or even fix some of the bill’s obvious flaws, the poorest, neediest patients’ access to health care remains in jeopardy.
So, here we are being presented the West Virginia Healthcare Continuity Act as a fix to a rather messy and complex problem called health care.
Let’s just hope Morrisey’s new idea works for the sake of all of West Virginia.