Nancy Patton Mills

Nancy Patton Mills

It must be a weird feeling for Donald Trump: when he flies into Johnstown Tuesday for his first visit to Pennsylvania since contracting COVID-19, he won’t be the center of the political universe.

Tuesday, most eyes will be on the city Trump just flew out of, where in our nation’s capital, day two of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court will be underway.

If confirmed, Barrett’s elevation to the highest court in the land will have immediate consequences. Trump and his Republican allies hope she’ll be seated in time to rule in favor of his lawsuit – which begins just one week after the election – to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Destroying the health care law passed by President Back Obama and Vice President Joe Biden has been a decade-long dream of Trump and the Republicans – and Barrett’s confirmation will mean they’re closer than ever to success. But Trump has no plan to replace the ACA if it’s struck down, and no interest in what it will mean for millions of Pennsylvania families if he succeeds.

If the ACA is dismantled, insurance companies will be able to deny coverage or charge huge rates to Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions, locking them out of affordable care. That would have an immediate, drastic impact on the over 5.3 million Pennsylvanians with pre-existing conditions who rely on the law for critical protections. Have asthma, or diabetes? Expect your rates to soar. Beat cancer? Next time you may have to beat it without being able to afford insurance. Are you one of the roughly 170,000 Pennsylvanians who survived COVID-19? Insurance companies are licking their chops at the rates they’ll be able to charge you if the ACA is repealed.

Getting rid of the ACA would also allow insurance companies to reinstate lifetime caps that could put working families on the hook for millions of dollars. What is the point of health insurance if your plan requires you to go bankrupt to keep yourself or your child alive? Why is that the world that Trump and Republicans are so eager to return to?

The bills for Pennsylvania families and seniors will only grow from there. Striking down the Affordable Care Act would re-open the infamous “donut hole” for prescription drug costs, forcing many seniors to spend as much as $1,100 more every year on medicine, even if they’re on Medicare. Wellness visits and other preventative care that can catch diseases before they become life-threatening would no longer be free. And the savings 59 million seniors and Americans with disabilities on Medicare have enjoyed through lower premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing over the past 10 years might be reversed.

It’s clear that destroying the Affordable Care Act like Trump and Barrett want to do would cause health care costs to skyrocket in the middle of a pandemic, when so many families can least afford it. Under Trump’s disastrous leadership, COVID-19 hasn’t just taken the lives of thousands of Pennsylvanians – it’s caused the largest economic collapse since the Great Depression. Hundreds of thousands of us have lost their jobs, and often with it, their insurance. Many have been lucky enough to find solutions through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion – but what happens if it’s torn down, and these options are destroyed?

This is a time that calls for true leadership, someone with a real plan and a strategy to make it happen. Unfortunately, we have Trump. He’s spent the past four years claiming he’d produce a health care plan, sometimes saying we’d have it in a day or weeks, while months and years have gone by with that promise unfulfilled. That he still hasn’t produced a plan makes clear that he’s not the leader we need – and neither is his handpicked judge who has repeatedly made clear she’ll tear down the ACA.

Luckily, in just three weeks, we’ll have a chance to say if we want to stay on this disastrous course, or make a change for the better. Go to Iwillvote.com/PA to make a plan to vote, and ensure your voice will be heard in November. Your health care is on the ballot this year. Make sure you have a say in the health and safety of your loved ones.

Nancy Patton Mills is chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

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