Amid federal uncertainty, Delaware makes ACA pre-existing condition protection permanent

The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)

Portions of the Affordable Care Act protecting those with pre-existing conditions are now state law in Delaware. The change will protect state residents no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides on the ACA.

The latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act was heard in July by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It concerns a federal judge’s ruling in December that the GOP tax cut bill, in eliminating the individual mandate penalty, effectively made the entire ACA unconstitutional. The fight over that ruling is expected to rise all the way to the Supreme Court.

With so much uncertainty about how the justices will rule, Delaware lawmakers approved a plan to protect some of the most popular provisions of the law on the state level.

 “We know first-hand how important these protections are for our patients,” said Lolita Lopez, president and CEO of Westside Family Healthcare, a navigator agency for Delawareans trying to figure out how to sign up for benefits through the ACA. “With the ongoing court hearings, we know that that the Affordable Care Act’s future remains uncertain.”

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Gov. John Carney visited Westside’s Wilmington facility earlier this week to sign the bill. SB 35 ensures that Delawareans with pre-existing conditions will still be able to get insured, even if the ACA is overturned. Carney said protecting these ACA provisions is important because of the big impact the law has had in the state since it was approved in Washington in 2009. 

“We went from having about 110,000 folks uninsured to today having about 30 or 35,000 Delawareans uninsured. The legislation that commits the protections of the Affordable Care Act is really incredibly important,” Carney said.

State Sen. Trey Paradee, who sponsored the bill in that chamber, noted: “As the ACA continues to be under attack in our court system, it very well may be that this bill ends up being one of the more important pieces of legislation that we passed this year because it does codify certain portions of the Affordable Care Act into the Delaware code.”

Lopez said the change will help facilities like Westside continue to serve their clients, 33% of whom live in poverty. 

“As a community health center, we play a critical role to ensure that our most vulnerable populations have access to affordable health coverage and services,” Lopez said. “Delawareans don’t have to worry that a diagnosis, a pre-existing condition, can cause them to lose their health coverage.”

SB 35 was approved in the Delaware Senate in a 16-5 vote in April. It passed the state House, 26-15, in late June.

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