While attempts to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act and “Obamacare” — have stalled for the moment in Congress, individual states are taking matters into their own hands to ensure the law remains in effect within their borders.
Washington recently joined the list of states that have strengthened provisions of the Affordable Care Act for its residents. The new bill reinforces a significant number of consumer protections in the ACA, most notably making it illegal for insurance companies to deny health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
Health care protections for Washington residents
Flanked by health care advocates and men and women suffering from pre-existing conditions, Gov. Jay Inslee signed the House Bill 1870 into law on April 17 in the State Capital building in Olympia. The bill received 25 sponsors in the Washington House of Representatives.
Inslee has been a staunch defender of the Affordable Care Act and has issued strong denunciations of attempts by Congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump to repeal the health care law. The Governor’s Office said a Federal repeal of Obamacare would eliminate a recent Medicaid expansion and additional low-income subsidies and would lead to a loss in coverage for 800,000 Washingtonians.
Last year alone, 590,000 lower-income Washingtonians gained coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion, and 210,000 state residents received coverage through the state’s Health Plan Finder.
In March, Inslee decried the Trump Administration’s support for a repeal of the ACA as “legally indefensible and morally inexcusable”, adding that repeal would have “far-reaching and immediate consequences for millions of Washingtonians and tens of millions of Americans who have accessed life-saving benefits” from the law.
“The president wants to decimate pre-existing conditions protections, kick young people off their parents’ plans, and burden older Americans with an unfair ‘Age Tax.’” said Inslee in a statement, adding that women would lose access to birth control and reproductive healthcare, while people with conditions such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis would “once again find it virtually impossible to get affordable coverage.”
The Governor said that repeal would lead to rising drug costs and a worsening of the opioid crisis. Since 2014, over 90,000 Washingtonians battling a substance use disorder have been able to receive treatment after enrolling in Medicaid.
"After two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, countless repeal attempts by Republicans in D.C., and a near-constant barrage of attacks by this administration, the ACA is still standing and I’m confident it will prevail again,” said Inslee in March. “We’ve never backed down from a fight and we’re not about to start now."