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Casey says ACA attacks preventing real reform

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Monday morning thwarting attacks on the nation’s current health care system is preventing meaningful work from being done on lowering costs for Americans.

During an hourlong interview at the Times News, Casey said an appeals court could issue a decision “any day” on a lawsuit that, if successful, would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“It would be a tragedy not only for those who got health care through the ACA health exchange, but also for those who got health care as a result of the Medicaid expansion,” Casey said.

“In Carbon County, that is about two-thirds of the 5,500 residents who now have health care due to the (ACA). It would also be devastating for those with pre-existing conditions to lose those protections they didn’t have before the act.”

In April 2018, a group of states led by Texas, as well as two individuals, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas arguing that the law’s individual mandate provision is unconstitutional, and that the rest of the law is inseverable from that provision and therefore must also fall.

Twenty-one states and the U.S. House of Representatives, led by California, are defending the ACA since the Department of Justice declined to do so.

In March 2019, the DOJ filed a two-sentence letter to the 5th Circuit, joining the plaintiffs in saying the whole ACA should be struck down. Pennsylvania is not involved in the case.

Judge Reed O’Connor of the district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in December 2018, but stayed the ruling pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. On July 9, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit heard oral arguments in the case. The Trump administration has not yet implemented the trial court’s decision while the appeal is being heard.

“The opioid crisis has hit so many communities, though the number of people getting treatment is coming down because they were afforded that opportunity due to Medicaid expansion,” Casey said.

“That goes away if this lawsuit succeeds. You can’t say you are for this lawsuit, but also in favor of people getting treatment.”

Casey said he and fellow Democrats are also fighting against a proposed $1.5 trillion cut to Medicaid and an $845 billion cut to Medicare. Also of concern, he said, is the Trump administration’s sabotage on the ACA, including a 90% cut in advertising funds and a decreased enrollment period.

“We have to spend every day fighting against these attacks on health care,” Casey said.

“If we weren’t, we could be working on the two things we hear about most, the cost of health care and the cost of prescription drugs. Both parties could come to the table and work to create a better scenario, but not when you’re constantly defending these attacks.”

Local visit

After his stop at the newspaper, Casey met Monday with representatives from the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation and had a small walking tour in Lehighton.

He said the visit was to not only learn about the challenges facing the local area, but to learn how the group was working to grow the local work force and keep young people in the area.

“Leaders in counties like Carbon, they’re often not waiting for Washington or even Harrisburg, they’re coming up with their own initiatives to deal with the issues they face,” Casey said.

“For a state like Pennsylvania and a county like Carbon, you want to look at things like growing the amount of manufacturing jobs, but also making sure we’re maintaining health care jobs. It’s the biggest employer here and it’s a stabilizing job that can’t be outsourced. China, for example, can’t steal our health care jobs.”

Gun control

While Casey said Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised time for a debate and vote on more extensive background checks for prospective firearm owners, it is now tied to a guarantee, or at least a strong indication, that Trump would sign such legislation.

“That’s a game because he already knows the president is backing away on his comments about supporting a background check bill,” Casey said.

Casey said he supports House Resolution 8, also known as the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed the House in February. The bill, would only allow person-to-person gun after a background check and would close loopholes for certain kinds of gun sales including those made online or at gun shows.

“There is some support on the Republican side for the Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” Casey said.

Also known as the Red Flag laws, they would allow a judge to decide when someone is a danger to himself or others, and could commit an act of violence.

“It’s not enough though,” Casey said. “I really hope we can have that time on the Senate floor for meaningful discussion and a vote on some of these more extensive bills.”

2020 presidential election

Casey, who had once considered a presidential run in 2020 himself, said he has supported former Vice President Joe Biden as the Democratic nominee since day one.

“He is the one person who really combines character and experience,” Casey said. “Joe has a great set of ideas for the future and can really help get this country back on the track to success.”

Casey said Biden was undoubtedly the strongest candidate for Pennsylvania, which he called the key to the election.

“Whoever wins this state will be the next president,” Casey said, “because it likely means they have also won states like Michigan and Wisconsin.”