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As they did when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2009, advocates celebrated the Supreme Court ruling that it is constitutional under Congress’ taxing authority.


“What we know is that the Affordable Care Act makes insurance coverage accessible and affordable to the millions who are uninsured—51 percent of whom are women of color in this country,” said New Voices Pittsburgh Executive Director La’Tasha D. Mayes. “Today’s ruling is a victory for all women who were denied health insurance because pregnancy or domestic violence was a pre-existing condition, for the women who will have greater access to preventative care include contraception, family planning and maternity care and for the women who pay up to 48 percent higher premiums than men based on gender alone.”

Additionally, the consumer health coalition noted that Pennsylvanians are already benefiting:

•177,000 children with pre-existing conditions like asthma and leukemia to have secure coverage and not have to fear being denied for pre-existing conditions;

•160,000 small businesses to take advantage of new tax credits to help make coverage affordable;

•91,000 young adults to stay covered on their parents’ insurance until age 26, and

•260,000 seniors to save an average of $660 on prescription drugs in the “donut hole” coverage gap last year. Since these new discounts were established, Pennsylvania seniors have saved over $225 million.

“After three years of intense opposition from big insurance companies who spent millions of dollars to scare, confuse and divide Americans about ‘Obamacare,’ the constitutional debate is over, and the time has come to tell the truth about what this law does and why it’s so crucial to the health and security of working families across Western Pennsylvania,” said Erin Gill-Ninehouser, Western Regional director for the Pennsylvania Health Action Network.

However, the court ruled the federal government cannot cut current Medicaid funding to states that choose not to participate in the Medicaid expansion of the Affordable Care Act initially required.

Leslie Bukarski, spokesperson for Pittsburgh’s Consumer Health Coalition said the expansion would allow more non-disabled, childless adults—the working poor—to have access to critical health care benefits.

“We need to push our elected officials to participate in the Medical Assistance expansion to ensure access to affordable healthcare for low income Pennsylvanians,” she said.

Following the Supreme Court’s June 28 ruling, Gov. Tom Corbett, who as attorney general joined the states challenging the care act, said he would do whatever he could to make the adoption of the act as “painless as possible,” but did not say whether or not he would approve the Medicaid expansion. Previously he called the expansion “unsustainable.”

For states that do opt to voluntarily participate, the federal government would pay 100 percent the Medicaid cost expansion for the first three years, then drop to 90 percent. Though 10 percent may not seem like much, initial estimates by the University of Pittsburgh Health Policy Institute put the cost of expansion in Pennsylvania at $2 billion.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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