ACA returning to Supreme Court, and Cobb blames Stefanik
In a virtual press conference Wednesday, Democratic congressional candidate Tedra Cobb, who is running against incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik in the Nov. 3 election, said Stefanik is responsible for a case on the Affordable Care Act going before the Supreme Court, which could rule the law unconstitutional.
Cobb’s primary focus throughout her 2018 and 2020 candidacy has been on health care, and this video call she said “put face on the issue.” Three district residents spoke about their and their family’s health conditions and said they have relied on the ACA for treatments they need.
Stefanik’s spokesperson did not speak on the Supreme Court case but called Cobb’s health care plans a “socialist government takeover of healthcare.”
Cobb said she believes adding to the ACA, specifically a Medicare public option, is the best plan. In the past she has supported Medicare for all but now wants to offer the option to buy into it.
Supreme Court and ACA
With the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court now leans more conservative, and if President Donald Trump nominates another conservative judge, which he says he aims to do soon, the Senate is likely to approve it.
In the week following the election, the Supreme Court will hear a case on whether the ACA is constitutional. If it rules that it is not constitutional, the health care system would be shaken up with the elimination of the decade-old act, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid widespread unemployment.
Cobb said Stefanik supports this case being heard. Stefanik’s campaign email did not respond to this allegation. Stefanik has approved of amendments that allow this lawsuit to occur, though.
In June 2019 the House voted on the Underwood Amendment, which would prevent the spending of federal funds by the Department of Justice on litigation to undermine the ACA. It is essentially a roadblock to the Supreme Court ruling on the ACA and amending laws that change the application of the act.
Stefanik voted against the Underwood Amendment, along with the majority of Republicans. It still passed the House; however, it has yet to be taken up in the Senate, meaning that roadblock could not prevent this case from being heard.
“You and I are paying for this lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court,” Cobb said, alluding to federal tax dollars in the DOJ being spent to bring this case before the court.
At the heart of this case is the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires most Americans to purchase health insurance or be taxed. This mandate was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court in 2012, in a decision defining the mandate as a tax instead of a penalty. But in 2017 the Republican-led tax law eliminated this mandate.
The plaintiffs say now, without these fines, the whole ACA is invalid.
Asked if she believes the individual mandate is constitutional, Cobb said she does, adding that is what makes the ACA “work.”
“The more people in the pool, the more affordable it is,” she said.
Stefanik did not weigh in on this case.
Cobb said Stefanik has voted against the ACA five times, and that she has no plan for providing insurance after repealing it. This statement is vague and does not fully describe Stefanik’s position on the ACA, which is more complicated. Stefanik has for the most part favored repealing and replacing the ACA, and voted to eliminate the individual mandate.
“Congresswoman Stefanik proudly authored the largest ever fix to Obamacare, which was signed into law by President Obama repealing the autoenrollment mandate,” Anderson wrote in an email. “She also has supported numerous reforms to Obamacare including leading the effort to repeal medical device taxes and the Cadillac tax on union healthcare plans.”
Stefanik has voted to repeal portions of the ACA several times, voted to repeal without a direct plan to replace once, and voted to use federal money on lawsuits opposing the act. She generally supports privatized health care insurance over government-funded insurance.
“(Stefanik) supports patient-centered healthcare reforms that allow healthcare to be purchased across state lines and allow small businesses to pool together to purchase health insurance to lower costs,” Anderson wrote.
In February 2015 — four weeks into her first term — she voted for a bill to repeal the ACA without directly replacing it. The bill laid out guidelines for creating a replacement bill in broad terms but provided no deadline for when this replacement should pass.
Stefanik said at the time she believed a Republican replacement bill would be released later that year, but no GOP replacement went public until 2017. She did not vote on the first version and voted for the second.
Anderson said Stefanik has also make other health care proposals include covering preexisting conditions, lowering surprise medical bills, lowering prescription drug costs and requiring insurance to cover multiple primary care visits per year.
On Wednesday the Medical Society of the State of New York PAC endorsed Stefanik as one of only three Republicans among 24 total legislators.
Henrietta Jordan of Keene Valley is a former Vermont state legislator and active Democrat. She said in Cobb’s conference call that she has been lucky with the timing of her health before passage of the ACA. She has several pre-existing conditions, including nerve deafness and a history of endometriosis, which resulted in her getting a hysterectomy.
At one point, while she was between jobs and before the ACA passed, she could only afford health care that did not cover preexisting conditions because she had no employer health care.
She said she was lucky she had no urgent health issues at that time.
“That’s a very real danger,” Jordan said.
Kate Albrecht Fidler of Adams said “I cannot afford for the ACA to be repealed.” She has a child with disabilities and a spouse with a life-threatening condition.
“If Elise’s plan for the ACA is realized, the coverage we all depend on now will be eroded and profit through privatization will be the priority,” Fidler said. “Elise’s plan for repeal of the ACA means that my husband’s truly life-saving care would bankrupt my family.”
Fidler said the ACA was a “starting point” that “needs amending, not repeal.”
Peter Beekman of Canton said he has a blood cancer called multiple myeloma. He said he has been in remission for four years but that the oral chemotherapy he takes costs $22,000 a month, adding up to over $1 million in the past four years.
“My remission is obviously an expensive proposition, but because of the ACA I’m not very anxious at this point and I’m able to live my life to its fullest,” Beekman said.
Supreme Court seat
Cobb said she thinks the decision on who is nominated to fill Ginsburg’s seat should be delayed until after the November election, to let voters decide.
“I think the new Congress should make the decision with a new president about the Supreme Court decision,” Cobb said.
Stefanik has supported immediately filling this seat.
Asked if she would support any of Trump’s possible nominations, Cobb said she would defer the question until she researched them more.
Asked if she would support adding judge seats to the court, as other Democrats have proposed, Cobb said she would not answer that yet.