With the fate of the Affordable Care Act hanging in the balance, Democrats across the country fear President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will crush Americans’ access to affordable health care and terminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions. But Democrats have one last line of defense against a future majority-conservative Supreme Court, and it’s not the filibuster. Democratic governors may be the last thing standing between Donald Trump and Americans’ right to accessible, affordable health care.
During the past eight months, the nation has seen the difference a Democratic governor can make. In the absence of science-driven leadership from the federal government during the pandemic, Democratic governors stepped up. Commonsense public health policies like mask requirements, shutting down indoor dining, extending the safety net, and shoring up small businesses have been the hallmark of Democratic leadership in states across the country. Just as they have throughout this presidency, and this crisis, the blue wall of governors may become the only thing protecting Americans against Republicans’ unrelenting attempts to roll back popular, vital policies and precedents like the Affordable Care Act.
As soon as Republicans began their attacks on the ACA, Democratic governors sprang into action. After Congress removed the federal individual mandate penalty, at least three Democratic governors, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, enacted state-level individual mandates. At least eight states run by Democratic governors have created state-based insurance exchanges, and four more Democratic governors plan to transition their states to a state-run marketplace in the next few years. Here in Pennsylvania, we established our own state-based exchange and new reinsurance program, providing for lower premiums and increased access to health insurance for nearly 400,000 individuals across the state. Fifteen Democratic governors have successfully enshrined at least one key ACA protection into law. And in eight states, thanks to Democratic governors, individuals with preexisting conditions cannot be denied health care coverage even if the ACA is repealed.
Democratic governors are also pushing beyond just what the federal government was able to accomplish with the ACA. In California, Gov. Newsom created a program to extend state-funded health insurance to young adults with undocumented immigration status. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of mammograms and other screenings to detect breast cancer. And in Pennsylvania, I signed legislation expanding our state’s prescription drug assistance program for the first time in 15 years, making coverage available to an additional 17,000 seniors.
There are several races this year where we need to elect governors that will protect fundamental liberties regardless of federal action. In North Carolina, Governor Roy Cooper is up against Republican Dan Forest who is staunchly against Medicaid expansion, has parroted dangerous conspiracy theories about reproductive rights, and has supported voting restrictions that courts have deemed racist. In Montana, Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney is facing Republican Greg Gianforte who has donated to crisis pregnancy centers that deceive women about their reproductive options and has staunchly opposed the Affordable Care Act. In Missouri, Republican Gov. Mike Parson has attacked Medicaid expansion and the ACA, even as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. State Auditor Nicole Galloway has vowed to implement Medicaid expansion, fight to lower drug costs, and protect those with pre-existing conditions.
Donald Trump may manage to put three justices on the Supreme Court and hundreds more on federal courts by the end of his first term. If he gets a second, who knows what the makeup of that Court and lower courts could look like. As the country faces a future with a conservative Supreme Court, the role of Democratic governors in protecting health care and other key issues has never been more important, and on November 3, we can’t forget that.
Tom Wolf is the Governor of Pennsylvania.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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