Pa. Democrats, doctors push preservation of Affordable Care Act in face of Trump’s promise to repeal

Although initially highly partisan, Republicans appear to have largely given up the fight over the 2010 law. However, the presumed party nominee still has it in his sights.

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Sen. Vincent Hughes

State Sen. Vincent Hughes holds a press conference to denounce Donald Trump’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the law’s 14th anniversary. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY)

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North Philadelphia resident Taylor Brothers was a teenager by the time her parents were able to insure her and her siblings. Her waitress mother and truck driver father did not have job-based insurance and could not afford to pay out of pocket for insurance premiums.

However, her mother signed them up for subsidized coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which passed 14 years ago this week. That gave them access to the medicines they needed to treat her psoriasis and the family’s other medical needs.

“It was a godsend,” Brothers, now a CPR trainer, told WHYY News. “Even though my parents were working, they just couldn’t provide a family of five with health insurance.”

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Brothers joined state Sen. Vincent Hughes and local doctors at a press conference warning voters about Donald Trump’s plan to repeal the ACA — as the former president has said several times he would do.

Taylor Brothers
Taylor Brothers discusses how she was uninsured as a teenager until the passage of the ACA made it affordable for her parents. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY)

Although initially highly partisan, Republicans appear to have largely given up the fight over the 2010 law. However, the presumed party nominee still has it in his sites.

“We’re gonna fight for much better health care than Obamacare,” the former president said in January. “Obamacare is a catastrophe.”

Given the increasing popularity of the Obama-era law in recent years, the White House is playing up Trump’s comments and making preserving the ACA a central issue in the 2024 election while promoting the president’s efforts to increase the number of Americans who become insured through the program.

“The fact that today there are more Americans who have health insurance coverage, therefore can take their child to the hospital, not worry about going bankrupt, is a testament to the work that the president has done to expand access to health care,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra told WHYY in a recent interview.

With 19 electoral votes up for grabs in Pennsylvania and polling that puts Biden and Trump in a dead heat, Pennsylvania Democrats have joined the debate.

“We know that there’s a stark difference between the candidates for president, one being our president, Joe Biden, who is fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act,” Hughes told reporters.

According to the Pennsylvania Health Insurance Exchange Authority, around 435,000 Keystone residents receive coverage through Pennie, the state’s health insurance marketplace. Pennie, like other exchanges around the country, was established under the ACA and enables those without other coverage to purchase private health insurance at federally subsidized rates.

More than a million others also receive ACA-related coverage.

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That’s a record enrollment according to state officials — though many more are eligible. Pennie’s executive director, Devon Trolley, said that’s a testament to increased federal premium subsidies provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed in 2022.

Dr. Jessica Klemens, a local OB-GYN, said that she has seen this for herself at her practices in Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

“I’m seeing more and more of my patients come in for their care with the ACA Medicaid plans where previously they didn’t qualify for those, and so they were forced to either go bare with no insurance or they were purchasing those, what I refer to as catastrophic plans, or those with high deductibles,” Klemens told WHYY.

Dr. Benjamin Abella, an emergency physician in Philadelphia, added that repealing the 14-year-old law would lead to what he describes as catastrophic scenarios.

“If the ACA is overturned, many people will lose the insurance that is truly their lifeline to care, and people will start flooding emergency departments like they were before, and people without insurance come to us with much worse conditions,” he told WHYY. “I, for one, am very worried that the GOP does not understand the value of providing insurance and lifting up those who need health care.”

Dr. Ben Abella
Dr. Ben Abella, an emergency room physician in Philadelphia, tells reporters that a repeal of the ACA would lead to more and sicker people going to emergency rooms. (Carmen Russell-Sluchansky/WHYY)

Asked if she had a message for Trump and other politicians looking to repeal the ACA, Brothers said they should stop looking for “political points.”

“That’s just rude,” she said. “Care about the people, not yourself.”

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