CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A life and death struggle is how Athens native Kristen O’Sullivan described the fight to keep the Affordable Care Act in law.
O’Sullivan gathered with a group outside of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office on Tuesday for a protest of the state’s involvement in a lawsuit that could overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The 18-state suit, Texas v. United States that challenges the constitutionality of ACA, had its only day of oral argument Tuesday in front of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The court is considering a federal judge’s ruling in December that deemed ACA as unconstitutional.
O’Sullivan said Morrisey has no business sticking West Virginia in this lawsuit because he is putting the healthcare of many West Virginians at risk.
“And yet he is determined to do this anyway even though it will harm us,” she said to MetroNews.
“If I go without health insurance, I can die. Anyone can, I am just painfully aware of it because of my own medical conditions and backgrounds.”
O’Sullivan told her personal story about healthcare struggles before ACA came along as part of a mock trial held as part of the protest.
She was a witness alongside four others Tuesday that stated their cases to a mock courtroom.
Pre-existing conditions, which coverage of them has taken center stage in the lawsuit and a large part of ACA, is something that O’Sullivan deals with after a car accident as a teen. Her left arm remains paralyzed from the crash, more than 30 years later, and she detailed how tough it was to find healthcare that covered pre-existing conditions at an affordable price after getting off her parent’s healthcare as a young adult.
She said once ACA came along, it was like a breath of fresh air.
“The worry and fear that I had my entire life around insurance, I was able to set it aside,” O’Sullivan said. “Not that I wasn’t concerned for my health still, but the worry that I would not be able to get the treatment I needed when I needed it.”
She added that just a couple of years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer but was covered for much of the treatment under ACA.
O’Sullivan said she is in remission at this time but the stripping of ACA could be devastating with chemo and radiation.
“The ACA saved my life. Literally saved my life,” she said.
Gary Zuckett of West Virginia Citizen Action Group, who also took on the role of organizing the mock trial, said those with pre-existing conditions like O’Sullivan are the ones that would be most affected by this lawsuit passing through.
“People with preexisting conditions will be under the thumb of insurance companies either denying them care for their pre-existing conditions or charging them exorbitant premiums to cover their existing conditions,” he said.
Zuckett said that around 160,000 West Virginians are covered just under the expansion of Medicaid in ACA and that would be lost.
“People that don’t have healthcare coverage wait longer to get healthcare taken care of. Some of them get sick, some of them will die,” he added.
Zuckett admitted that ACA is not perfect but suggests that Morrisey should be attempting to fix what is wrong with the current law and not throw the entire thing out.
O’Sullivan called Morrisey’s thoughts as to why the state needed to be involved in the lawsuit “unfathomable” and had a direct message for him.
“I’d ask him to be answerable to the people of West Virginia. That is where those concerns to the people of our state are all that should matter.”
The jury found Morrisey guilty of public malfeasance.
Morrisey released a written statement as well in which part read:
“Our lawsuit seeks to protect thousands of working-class West Virginians – with and without preexisting conditions – who are suffering financial hardships because of Obamacare, since without action, household budgets cannot continue to sustain such pressure.
“Sadly, Obamacare loyalists stick their head in the sand, ignore its skyrocketing premiums and hope that by repeating the same lie long enough, the general public will fall in line with Washington controlling yet another aspect of its life.
“Don’t fall for the left’s con job. Our detractors use nakedly partisan attacks to hide their embrace of skyrocketing premiums for those who can least afford it, while forcing those same taxpayers to foot the bill for luxury health care coverage for members of Congress and their staff – insurance far superior to that of typical West Virginians.
While some participate in scare tactics to achieve goals of eliminating private plans & doubling taxes, I suggest time would be better spent developing a solution to out of control O-care premiums. I’ll work with @wvlegislature to protect pre-ex conditions & reduce premiums.
— Patrick Morrisey (@MorriseyWV) July 9, 2019
The lawsuit, which is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, comes as plaintiffs’ target an individual mandate’s constitutionality in the law because the mandate penalty would be reduced to $0 this year as part of the 2017 tax law.
Since ‘Obamacare’ has gone into law, the number of uninsured in West Virginia has fallen from 14% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2016, but now sits at 6.1% in 2017 on a slight bump.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin released a statement on Tuesday about the lawsuit:
Oral arguments begin today in a federal lawsuit filed in part by WV’s Attorney General that would threaten the health care coverage of 800,000 West Virginians who have pre-existing conditions. This inhumane lawsuit is wrong, and I’ll continue to stand up for WVians’ healthcare. pic.twitter.com/bGaGgxeHpa
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) July 9, 2019