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Florida Democrats celebrate 10th anniversary of ACA passage amid pandemic concerns

Congressional Democrats are urging the President to drop his lawsuit to invalidate Obamacare.

Florida Democrats commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act Monday amid the state topping more than 1,100 cases of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19.

Since former President Barack Obama successfully ushered in his landmark legislation, provisions of it have been weakened by the Supreme Court, Congress and the Donald Trump administration. The Supreme Court said earlier this month it will take up a Republican challenge to Obamacare. A federal appeals court in December struck down Obamacare’s individual mandate after a Texas judge declared the entire law unconstitutional.

Democratic Congresswomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell called the ACA one of the biggest policy victories of this century. 

They blasted Trump for continuing to support the lawsuit to eliminate the ACA during his press conference Sunday. They argue if he succeeds, at least 3.5 million Floridians with pre-existing conditions could lose benefits and the number of uninsured Floridians may increase by 67%.

“Businesses are closing at a staggering rate and behind each one is a workplace full of employees who could soon lose their health coverage because of Donald Trump,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Even workers who still have access to employer-based coverage are worried about what happens if they get laid off.”

The ACA made several changes to federal law when it was enacted in 2010, which allowed millions more people in the U.S. to access insurance coverage. That included expanding Medicaid coverage to low-income adults, allowing young adults to stay on their parents insurance through age 26, covering people with pre-existing conditions and requiring health insurance plans to provide comprehensive coverage.

The Republican National Committee responded to the remarks by the congresswomen by pointing out Trump signed the House bill on the coronavirus that provides free testing and gives paid emergency leave to those who are positive for the disease or must care for an infected family member. The bill also provides additional Medicaid funding, food assistance and unemployment benefits.

Campaign officials also say he has declared a national emergency and argued he has invoked the Defense Production Act which will expedite industry production of medical supplies. However, he has not yet used it to direct companies to start making personal protective equipment that states say they are in short supply of.

He has also issued several travel restrictions.

“President Trump has taken bold and decisive action that has undoubtedly saved American lives,” campaign spokeswoman Emma Vaughn said.

Congress is currently negotiating an aid package, but it’s stalled over whether the legislation disproportionately benefits businesses more or has the right level of stimulus for families and struggling small businesses.

The Democrats also criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis for his response to dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Shalala says expanding Medicaid to low-income adults could benefit as many as nearly 1 million Floridians.

“If it were expanded now, hundreds of thousands of our friends and neighbors would gain coverage,” she said. “We also have not seen a request to reopen the ACA enrollment in Florida.”

Several Democratic-leaning states have re-opened their ACA exchanges because of the pandemic, but most states use the federal marketplace overseen by the federal government. The federal governnment is weighing whether to host a special open enrollment period, which Mucarsel-Powell  requested. 

She also sent a letter to the Governor asking him to implement a statewide stay at home order. Murcarsel Powel and Wasserman Schultz are also asking DeSantis to act with more urgency in response to the pandemic. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has also called for a similar stay at home order.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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