Gov. Jay Inslee and other Washington Democrats are ramping up public pressure on congressional Republicans, trying to persuade them not to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in place.
Gov. Jay Inslee, surrounded by people who credit their lives to health insurance they bought under the Affordable Care Act, demanded Wednesday that Republicans in Congress not repeal the beleaguered health-care law until they are able to pass a simultaneous replacement for it.
“It’s time for 7 million Washingtonians to make sure that their congressmen know it will not stand to take away people’s health care and not replace it on the same day,” Inslee said, speaking at Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah.
He peppered his remarks with that line — “on the same day” — objecting less to GOP plans to repeal parts of the law than to doing so with no replacement ready.
More than 750,000 Washingtonians have health insurance under the law, and more than 500,000 of those previously had none. The law has cut Washington’s uninsured rate by nearly 60 percent.
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“It is morally irresponsible, it is morally indefensible, for the U.S. Congress to jerk the rug out of 750,000 people who have health care today,” Inslee said.
Washington’s four congressional Republicans say they are committed to repealing the health-care law, but earlier this week did not respond when asked what they would like to see as a replacement.
“Our goal is to use every available tool to bring a smooth and stable replacement in concurrence with repeal,” Republican Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dan Newhouse, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dave Reichert said in a joint statement.
They did not respond when asked if “concurrence” meant they would not vote for a repeal without a replacement in place. Only Herrera Beutler has explicitly called for a simultaneous replacement.
Republicans have been moving toward repeal with the possibility of delaying its effective date by several years, giving them more time to work on a replacement.
Democrats are launching efforts to try to preserve the law, with Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, planning a series of events across his congressional district and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, hosting a rally in downtown Seattle on Sunday.
Inslee repeatedly hammered congressional Republicans for voting dozens of times over the last six years to repeal the law but never coming close to coalescing around a replacement.
“Maybe you can come up with a better idea to replace it, bring it on, let’s have that discussion, but until you do, you don’t snatch away cancer treatment from this woman,” Inslee said, gesturing behind him to his left. “You don’t snatch away heart treatment from this man,” Inslee continued, gesturing to his right.
Standing to his left was Chris Griffiths, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. There was a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation. Then five more years of chemotherapy, which left her with scarred lungs, asthma, numbness in her extremities and serious kidney problems.
She was insured under her husband’s employer-sponsored plan at the time, but when he had to retire because of a health problem three years ago, that went away.
Without the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurance companies from denying insurance based on pre-existing medical conditions, she would have been uninsurable.
She bought insurance through the Washington Health Plan Finder, one of about 190,000 people in the state who were signed up through the exchange, as of October.
“It’s expensive, but I can have my follow-up care. I am not dead,” Griffiths said. “I know that next year I may not be insured and I don’t know what I’m going to do. My life depends on having health insurance.”
Standing to Inslee’s right was Joselito Lopez, who had been a contract worker for Microsoft, when he had two heart attacks in 2006.
Unable to work, he eventually lost his job and his health insurance.
Those heart attacks, along with diabetes, counted as pre-existing conditions and he was unable to buy health insurance until the ACA went into effect.
“Taking away the ACA puts my life and the lives of so many others at risk,” Lopez said.