Bill aims to protect pre-existing conditions from ‘catastrophic’ Obamacare repeal

If Congress or the Supreme Court kills the Affordable Care Act, one of the act’s key provisions — that people with pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance — could be preserved for Florida consumers under a bill advanced by a state Senate committee Tuesday.

How beneficial that access would be without cost controls is not yet known.

On the national level, Republicans have been trying to repeal or gut protections in the ACA, know as Obamacare, since it was enacted by then-President Barack Obama in 2010 without any Republican support.

Under President Donald Trump, the law has been weakened a piece at a time: A requirement that everyone buy insurance or pay a tax penalty has been eliminated beginning in 2020. Trump stopped payment of cost-sharing reductions to health insurers in 2017. And in December, the entire law was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Texas.

Florida has the largest enrollment of the 39 states that rely on the federal marketplace. During the most recent open enrollment period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 22, more than 1.78 million Floridians registered. That exceeded the 2018 total of 1.76 million and the 2017 total of 1.71 million.

The bill by Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Republican from Spring Hill, was advanced by a 6-1 vote, with support from two of four Republicans and all four Democrats on the committee. Sen. Jeff Brandes, Republican from St. Petersburg, voted against it, and Sen. Joe Gruters, a Republican from Sarasota, was absent.

Committee Chairman Doug Broxson, a Republican whose Senate district is in the western panhandle, called the protection “the right thing for Florida to do.”