Capps concerned about Supreme Court ruling on health care law

Tens of thousands of Central Coast residents have already received improved health coverage under the Affordable Care Act and could be affected adversely by the expected U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the legislation, according to Congresswoman Lois Capps.

The positive effects of the act are significant but relatively little known, said Kena Burke, community-government relations director for the Community Health Centers of the Central Coast.

“There’s so much that has taken place,” Burke said. “There are folks that are surprised by that.”

But those effects, widely known or not, have been placed in a state of uncertainty as the Supreme Court weighs challenges to the law. The court is expected to rule on the law Thursday.

Nobody can say what the court will do; the one result of its decision that everyone can agree on is that there will be widespread confusion.

The court can either uphold the act in its entirety; declare the entire act unconstitutional; or find some aspects, such as the so-called individual mandate, unconstitutional.

Should the second or third results occur, it could negatively affect local residents in several ways, said Capps, a Democrat who represents the coastal sections of San Luis Obispo County.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nearly 10,000 Central Coast young adults now have health insurance, over 40,000 women now have access to preventive services like cancer screenings without burdensome co-pays, thousands of local seniors have saved hundreds of dollars on their prescription medications, and more than 500 small businesses have received tax credits to make insurance more affordable,” she wrote in a news release.

In addition, Capps wrote, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26; health insurance plans are required to offer preventive services such as a mammogram or child visit without a co-pay or deductible; and health insurance companies are required to spend 80 cents of each premium dollar on medical care, not executive compensation or advertising.

More specifically, when examining her district, which includes parts of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, Capps wrote that overturning the act could result in the following:

 Between 8,000 and 37,000 children with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage, which, under the act, insurers cannot refuse.

 Coverage for prevention could be jeopardized.

 Prescription drug discounts for about 6,200 seniors — worth $3.8 million — could be threatened.Additionally, roughly $8.5 million in public health grants have gone to community health centers, hospitals, doctors and other health care providers in her district.

Nobody can say for sure what would happen to these and other provisions should the act be overturned.

“I don’t think anyone is aware of the full consequences of a reversal,” Burke said. “It would create havoc.”

Capps’ office agreed that a reversal could lead to the parts of the law that have been implemented being scrapped. However, it is conceivable, though not guaranteed, that insurers and the state government would take up some of the coverage that would fall away if the federal law disappears.

“While California has been very aggressive in implementing the law and could pursue creating an exchange on its own, California will lose out on as much as $15 billion in federal funding annually to improve its health care system and expand access care,” Capps’ office said.