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“We’re Playing With People’s Lives and It Has to Stop”: Experts, Advocates Joined Protect Our Care to Discuss Disastrous Impacts of New Lawsuit Threatening ACA Protections

By July 25, 2022No Comments

Washington, DC — Today, Andrew Pincus and Kaye Bender from APHA joined Protect Our Care for a virtual press call to discuss the Kelley v. Becerra lawsuit, which threatens the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) preventive services requirement that guarantees free access to over 100 preventive health services, including routine vaccinations, well baby and child visits, cancer screenings, prenatal care, contraception, and more. In 2020 alone, more than 150 million Americans used these services. Along with DonnaMarie Woodson, a patient storyteller from North Carolina, speakers highlighted how this lawsuit is wrong on the merits and a grave threat to essential health care services millions of Americans depend on. 

Twenty-four organizations representing millions of people with or at risk for serious or chronic illnesses released a letter highlighting the need to protect access to preventive services. Read more about the case and the dire consequences here.

This event comes as Kelley v. Becerra is being argued on July 26 before the same Federal District Court judge whose decision invalidating the entire ACA was reversed by the Supreme Court in 2021.

“Each of the plaintiffs’ three legal arguments in this case is wrong,” said Andrew Pincus, Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and Partner at Mayer Brown LLP. “Congress required the coverage of evidence-based preventive services, specified bodies that applied well-established standards to guide their decisions and that are subject to oversight by the HHS Secretary, and the Secretary himself has ratified all of the preventive services decisions. There is no basis for invalidating the preventive services provisions. Additionally, on these plaintiffs’ claim based on their religious beliefs, they have failed to show that their religious beliefs are burdened. Finally, if Judge O’Connor rules against the ACA, he hopefully will put his decision on hold, as he has in past ACA cases, otherwise Americans could quickly begin to lose their coverage of these critical services.”

“It hardly seems logical that we’re pondering why preventive services, like immunizations, health care screenings, routine infant and child health care services, preventive medications for individuals with HIV and access to women’s health services, are important in 2022,” said Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, President of the American Public Health Association.We have made tremendous progress with the ACA and with other health insurance, but it is archaic to leave our health and prevention of catastrophic health problems to employment or to the whims of insurance companies. Prevention should be at the choice of the patient and of the individual, and we must do everything we can to protect preventive benefits.” 

“The free screenings that are included with the Affordable Care Act literally saved my life,” said DonnaMarie Woodson, cancer survivor and advocate from North Carolina. “Preventive care is everything: it’s saving lives and also saving all of the trauma and the stress that a person would have to go through emotionally and monetarily, to pay for all of the services. I think about it on a daily basis how many people are walking around, not getting screened, because they don’t have health insurance. It’s expensive, it’s not cheap. I’m here to tell you that these screenings are essential to life. In my opinion, those who want to take away free screenings really disregard and disrespect human life. It’s madness. We’re playing with people’s lives, and it has to stop.” 

“The free preventive care guaranteed by the ACA for over 150 million Americans has become a bedrock of the American health care system, improving health outcomes, reducing disparities in care, and cutting consumer health care costs,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “The latest salvo in the Republican war on health care, this politically-driven lawsuit was brought by longtime foes of the ACA, abortion rights, marriage equality, vaccination mandates, and diversity policies. If this attack on the preventative services requirement is successful, Americans will again be at the mercy of insurance companies and employers, who could eliminate the benefits or start charging for them, forcing patients to spend thousands of dollars a year for essential care they now get for free.”