NH congressional delegation pushes for Affordable Care Act support

U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas speaks Monday at Amoskeag Health in Manchester in support of the Affordable Care Act, along with the rest of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, (from left) Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Annie Kuster.

MANCHESTER — Members of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation lobbied for public support of the Affordable Care Act on Monday, the day before opening arguments in a federal lawsuit that could dissolve the national health care plan.

The delegation, all Democrats, warned of dire consequences should the latest legal challenge to the ACA succeed in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“While the ACA may not be perfect, it’s a solid foundation that we should be building on and not tearing apart,” U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas said.

Pappas joined U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan on Monday at the Amoskeag Health offices on Hollis Street.

They said the community health center was an appropriate venue to discuss the ACA and the people who benefit most from it, noting coverage for pre-existing conditions and the ACA’s role in fighting the opioid epidemic by expanding treatment options.

The congressional panel also introduced three patient advocates, who discussed how they have benefited from the ACA and the substantial burden they would face without it.

“There is no ‘Plan B,’” Shaheen said. “The recklessness of this action is really astounding if we think about what is at stake.”

All four members of the delegation voiced their support of the ACA and various reasons why they said it is vital to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation. The current challenge, however, is about whether the law is constitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling in December 2018 saying the ACA must fall because the tax penalty that gave it constitutional justification was gone.

Although the Supreme Court had upheld the individual mandate in a 2012 ruling, Congress in 2017 repealed the tax penalty used to enforce the mandate. A number of states sued, claiming the entire law to be invalid because the tax provision no longer existed.

O’Connor agreed and ruled in their favor, but issued a stay pending an appeal of his decision.

Arguments in the appeal of Texas v U.S. are scheduled for Tuesday before a three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Texas and 17 other largely-Republican states, supported by the Trump administration, are seeking to have O’Connor’s ruling upheld. Attorneys for a coalition of 20 other states will argue in support of the ACA.

Although New Hampshire is not one of the states formally involved in the lawsuit, members of the delegation on Monday pushed for Granite Staters to voice their support for the ACA.

Shaheen said the cost of health care and expense of prescription medicine are a concern to everyone and should not be a partisan issue.

“Granite Staters want bipartisan cooperation to drive down costs, to expand coverage and to ensure that everyone in New Hampshire and across this country has access to the health care that they need at a cost they can afford,” she said.

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Information from The Washington Post was used in this story.