A New Fight Endangering Ohioans

Astonishing! The Trump administration last week started a new fight! No, I don't mean the attack on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Even more troubling, the Administration has taken aim at people with serious health problems. Unlike some of its prior attacks, this blindsiding step has life and death implications.

Here’s what happened. Without prior warning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week announced an Administration move that, if adopted, would mean tens of millions of people who have cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and other serious conditions could lose the protection they thought they had against denial of health coverage or discriminatorily high insurance costs.

Let’s back up. You'll remember that the Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare," provides that health insurance companies can’t refuse to provide coverage or charge higher premiums based on a person’s having a pre-existing health problem. That’s the law! That protection against insurance discrimination was among the most important and popular elements of the Act, enabling millions of people with pre-existing health problems to obtain health coverage for the first time. With Republicans in Congress working to repeal Obamacare, people across the country voiced deep concerns, especially about the impact on people with pre-existing conditions. The Republican House leadership tried to blunt the criticism with a statement saying, “Americans should never be denied coverage or charged more because of a pre-existing condition.” President Trump himself promised to “ensure that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage.”

But the administration blew up that promise when it announced last week in a federal court suit challenging the Affordable Care Act that it would not defend this critical patient protection. Instead it asked the court to end that protection as of January 1, 2019.

That’s shocking! And it should ring alarm bells in this district, with more than 297,000 people here under the age of 65 having pre-existing health conditions, according to a recent analysis. Ohio-wide, it’s more than 4.5 million people. In other words, for many people here, they or someone in their family could be socked with huge premium increases next year or could lose coverage altogether if the courts accept the Trump Administration’s position. Those getting coverage from their employers would likely not be affected immediately, but they’d be in the same dicey boat as others if they lost that coverage.

So what’s our congressman, Jim Jordan, doing about this? Given the profound impact the Administration’s turn-about could have on so many of his constituents, you’d expect a congressman to take urgent steps to represent and protect them. Jordan’s actually in a position to do something about it as chairman of a congressional subcommittee with oversight of health care issues. Given the Administration’s explosive about-face on a critical patient protection, he ought to hold a hearing to push the Administration to reverse this wrong-headed action. Unfortunately, Jordan has time and again elected not to push back against this Administration or to conduct any kind of probing oversight that would reflect adversely on the Administration’s performance.

Jordan’s silence on the issue isn’t just a damning failure to speak up for Ohioans. It says something about his principles, or more accurately, lack of principles. As recently as last week, Jordan responded to federal agents’ mass arrests of seasonal garden workers in Sandusky and Castalia in a brief statement that cited “the rule of law.” Apparently, he viewed the raids simply as examples of the importance of enforcing the laws that are on the books.

The same principle applies to Obamacare, however. It remains on the books, and the federal government’s job is to carry it out. As part of that job, the Justice Department is responsible for defending federal law if and when they are challenged in court. Last week it breached that responsibility. But we’ve not heard a peep from Congressman Jordan, who is otherwise quick to call for carrying out the law, even when there’s minimal evidence that laws have been broken.

So last week’s events raise the question, what about the rule of law, Mr. Jordan? Does strict adherence to the rule of law only apply to laws governing undocumented immigrants? Jordan really can’t have it both ways if he expects to be viewed as a man of principle! He can’t fuss and fume about enforcing “the rule of law” for immigrants, but sit by indifferently when the Administration works to sabotage other laws on the books.

But if that’s the approach a congressman chooses to take, we have a word for it – hypocrite!

Janet GarrettComment