1st District congressional candidates support coverage of pre-existing conditions

Zach Vance • Jun 13, 2018 at 10:38 PM

In a rare showing of consensus among opposing candidates, all three contenders for Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District seat seem to agree on one thing: Preserving healthcare coverage protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Undoubtedly one of the most popular clauses woven into the Affordable Care Act, the pre-existing coverage mandate could be in jeopardy if a U.S. District Court in Texas rules in favor of a lawsuit that argues the Obama-era healthcare law is unconstitutional.

In February, a group of Republican attorneys general filed the lawsuit in a Texas U.S. District Court, claiming Congress’ decision to eliminate the individual mandate penalty should render the entire Obama-era law, including the pre-existing conditions clause, unconstitutional.

Last week, the Trump administration filed a motion effectively supporting the lawsuit, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions writing in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan that “this is a rare case where the proper course is to forgo defense” of the individual mandate.

Despite massive Democratic support for the Affordable Care Act, incumbent U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, claimed in a statement to the Johnson City Press that “the only thing that was ever bipartisan about the Affordable Care Act was the opposition to it.”

“I have long held that the law is unconstitutional because it forces people to purchase a product, even though they may not be able to afford it or want it. Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion was that the ACA was constitutional because the individual mandate was a tax, and now that the tax has been repealed, it seems logical under the original ruling that the whole law could now be unconstitutional, and I think the Trump administration is right to take this position,” Roe’s statement read.

On Friday, when asked whether he would support the Trump administration’s move on the campaign trail, Politico quoted Roe as saying that he wouldn’t “defend anything (he) doesn’t agree with —- regardless of who says it.”

“When asked specifically about whether I supported eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions, I noted that I didn’t agree with that — which is why I supported a House-passed alternative that would have replaced the Affordable Care Act with patient-centered reforms that preserve protections for pre-existing conditions.”

Roe’s primary opponent, military veteran Todd McKinley, said he also supports providing health insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, but there are caveats in his support.

“I think if someone has a pre-existing condition, especially if you’re born with something, you should be able to get healthcare coverage,” McKinley said.

When asked if patients with pre-existing conditions should pay more for coverage, McKinley responded with “if you smoke, for example, you should pay more because you can control that. If you’re somebody who drinks on a regular basis and you get cirrhosis of the liver, I think individual responsibility has to play into it.

“But if it’s something beyond your control, you shouldn’t have to be penalized for that. You should be able to get healthcare coverage, without a doubt. Obamacare is horrible, you know, as it is, but (pre-existing condition coverage) is, I think, the only good thing about it.”

A local physician and the only Democratic challenger for Roe’s seat, Dr. Marty Olsen’s stance on removing pre-existing conditions is rather predictable, considering the GOP attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act last year spurred him to enter politics.

“Protections for patients with pre-existing conditions need to be maintained. What some in Congress call a remodeling job is actually demolition. Phil Roe seems unwilling to commit to protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, but I know my patients and the voters here in East Tennessee want stable, affordable healthcare coverage,” Olsen said.






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