Las Vegas Sun

August 21, 2019

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Sun editorial:

If Justice Department won’t protect health care coverage, it’s up to states

To their credit, Nevada’s top state lawmakers have been quick to take legal action to stop the Trump administration from dismantling parts of the Affordable Care Act.

But with the Department of Justice announcing this week that it was now opposing the ACA, it’s more important than ever for lawmakers to also defend the act at a legislative level. They can do it by ensconcing elements of the ACA into state law, thereby requiring anyone providing health care coverage in the state of Nevada to offer protections that are currently in place under the federal act.

One such measure is already making its way through the legislative process — a bill that would codify the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions into Nevada law. That bill was filed by Democratic state Sen. Julia Ratti, a cancer survivor, and has the full support of Gov. Steve Sisolak.

Other lawmakers should get behind it as well, considering that an estimated 25 percent of Nevadans younger than 65 have a pre-existing condition. That translates to more than 435,000 Nevadans who could be denied coverage or be dropped from their current plans if the ACA is overturned and the state law isn’t adopted.

So Ratti’s measure is a winner, but it’s only one place where the state can protect Nevadans.

A leading defender of the ACA, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, is encouraging states to also adopt ACA anti-discrimination provisions on the basis of gender, English-language proficiency, ability and sexual orientation. In addition, he’s leading a charge for state laws allowing young people to remain on their parents’ coverage plans until age 26, and eliminating lifetime caps on coverage.

“We can, through state law, ensure that so many areas in the ACA are still available,” he said during an appearance on MSNBC this week.

Some protections for women have already been codified in Nevada, and additional ACA measures are definitely worth adopting here.

Nevadans need support, and not just the 83,000 who are enrolled in a health plan on the exchange. An additional 211,000 state residents are covered under Medicaid expansion, which also is at stake under the Trump administration’s new position on the ACA. According to the governor’s office, those covered by Medicaid expansion include more than 13,000 children, and nearly 60,000 low-income parents of dependent children.

In a media call this week organized by the Democratic Governors Association, Sisolak said Nevadans made it loud and clear to him on the campaign trail that they wanted protections on health care.

“As long as I’m governor, the state of Nevada will continue to fight against radical and dangerous attempts to rip away health care from millions of Americans and throw our health care system into chaos,” he said.

Sisolak and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford have already stepped up in the courts, starting in January when Ford entered Nevada into a lawsuit aimed at stopping the Trump administration from eliminating an Obamacare requirement for most employers to cover birth control in health insurance plans offered to employees.

On Tuesday, Ford entered Nevada into a coalition of 21 attorneys general by filing an opening legal brief in support of the ACA. The brief was filed in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering a challenge of a Texas judge’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

To Ford, Sisolak and other state lawmakers, here’s a vote of support and confidence.

As Nevadans showed during the 2018 election, they won’t stand for the Trump administration’s inhumane actions on the ACA. State leaders are doing the right thing in pushing back at every turn.