As a key congressional panel today examined protections for patients with pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act, March of Dimes said any changes to the law must provide greater options for comprehensive, quality and affordable health care that protects the health of families.
Testifying before the House Education and Labor Committee, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Health Officer, told lawmakers that as a practicing physician and former state public health commissioner, he routinely treated women struggling with the high costs of employer-based health insurance or priced out of their employer’s coverage altogether due to their pre-existing conditions.
“These women were in the impossible position of having to make choices between getting the care they needed and affording their families’ basic necessities, such as food or prescription medication,” he explained.
Gupta noted that among ACA’s most important provisions is its coverage of Essential Health Benefits, which are critical to ensuring Americans have access to the services they need, such as maternity care.
Gupta also told lawmakers that since pregnancy or childbirth are widely considered pre-existing conditions, the prevalence of at least one pre-existing condition among women of childbearing age is almost universal. He said health plans with annual or lifetime caps can be financially devastating in the case of maternal and child health.
“A woman with a high-risk pregnancy and delivery could easily exceed an annual cap, leaving her unable to obtain needed care for the rest of the year,” Gupta said.
“A baby born extremely pre-term who needed months of care in the neonatal intensive care unit could exhaust a lifetime cap before even coming home,” he added.
Pre-existing conditions are common among Americans. Six in every 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity put women at higher risk of pregnancy complications. These chronic conditions can have tragic consequences, especially during pregnancy. Each year in the U.S., roughly 700 women die of pregnancy-related causes, and more than 50,000 others experience dangerous complications that could have killed them.
Gupta also expressed deep concern by the filing and arguments in the case Texas v. United States, which recently led one federal judge to declare the ACA unconstitutional in its entirety, as well as efforts by the Administration to promote short-term, limited duration insurance plans that would not have to comply with many of the protections under the ACA.
“The lawsuit appears to have been undertaken as a legal exercise divorced from any real appreciation of its ramifications for millions of Americans, and their health and wellbeing,” he said. March of Dimes, along with other patient advocacy group, is calling on the Supreme Court to overturn the decision and affirm the law’s constitutionality.
To read Gupta’s written testimony, click here.