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Pa. lawmakers aim to write ACA provisions into state law

By , - Last modified: January 8, 2019 at 9:34 AM

Two state representatives from Allegheny County are proposing that Pennsylvania put into law benefit guarantees enacted under the Affordable Care Act even as a court ruling found the Obama-era act unconstitutional.

In an effort to preserve a range of health benefits guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act, Reps. Anthony DeLuca (D-Allegheny) and Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) sent a memorandum to fellow House members asking for co-sponsors on legislation that would make the federal act’s benefits state law.

The memorandum argues that if the ACA is rolled back nationwide as a result of the recent ruling, Pennsylvanians may not be able to get coverage for health care services that are covered now under the law.

“This decision could also lead to more inadequate health policies appearing on the market that provide very little coverage when someone needs it the most,” the memorandum states.

A U.S. District Court judge found the ACA unconstitutional this month after Congress repealed the act’s individual mandate imposing a penalty on people without insurance. Pennsylvania officials announced soon after the ruling that Pennsylvanians will not see a change in their insurance over the next year and that changes will only take effect in the state if the ruling were to make it past the appeals process and be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Frankel and DeLuca suggest that health benefits guaranteed under the act be written into state law so that patients can’t be denied coverage they received through the ACA.

Those health benefits include: ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health services, prescription drugs, rehabilitation and habilitation services, preventive and wellness services, pediatric services, and laboratory services.

“It’s important that we let people know that these benefits will be available in the foreseeable future and that this isn’t something that can be vaporized by the federal court decision,” Frankel said.

Frankel said he and DeLuca expect bipartisan support for the effort, as representatives from both parties have shown concern about where health care will be going in 2019. In the coming months, the representatives also hope to take a bill to Gov. Tom Wolf for his support.

“We will certainly sit down with the administration and talk about these issues,” Frankel said. “My sense is that the administration would be supportive of this. (The bill is) consistent with where the governor’s priorities are.”

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