The unions for workers who have been exposed to the coronavirus are warning that they could lose their health care if the Affordable Health Care Act and its coverage for pre-existing conditions is thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court is scheduled to take up the constitutionality of the ACA a week after the Nov. 3 elections. The merits of the Obama Administration's health program have dominated the debate over President Trump's nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who once wrote an article criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts's legal reasoning in providing the decisive vote to uphold the ACA in 2012.
Has EMS Officers Worried
Vincent Variale, president of District Council 37's Local 3621, which represents Emergency Medical Service officers, said without the ACA, many of his members could lose access to health insurance.
"Pre-existing conditions is always a concern, whether we [developed] those conditions through our actions and response on 9/11 to the World Trade Center or COVID," he said during a phone interview. "We have to worry about the people who got sick on 9/11 and continued to work during COVID."
Mr. Variale said the ACA was particularly important for EMS workers because, unlike firefighters and police officers, they don't have unlimited sick time and the access to health care that comes for those employees continuing to collect full salary while they convalesce.
"In EMS, we don't have unlimited sick leave and when they...fall off payroll, many times we have to direct them to go to the ACA government website [Healthcare.gov] where they found better prices than they would with COBRA," he explained.
Nurses Also Vulnerable
"Our nurses will be the first people excluded for their pre-existing conditions," said Carl Ginsburg, spokesperson for the New York State Nurses Association, which represents 42,000 nurses and has lost 38 members to the virus.
"Think about it: you're working in a hospital and the hospital can't tell you how many people have gotten sick from the virus," he said. "Somehow that number is not available in every instance, and there was a time when nurses were told to just keep working back in March...and the hospitals were saying 'we are not testing you because we don't want to know because we need you working.'"
He continued, "Now, cut to the nurses' households. They go home and they don't know if they have been infected that day and they are home with their family...Our nurses have a fundamental concern for their patients and their families."
While there has been extensive media coverage of the first-responders, health-care personnel, and other essential workers killed by COVID, the collateral impact on their families has been largely under-reported.
'Private' Workers' Concern
Gloria Middleton, president of Communications Workers of America Local 1180, represents thousands of Administrative Managers, some of whom work at city hospitals. She believes the ACA gives her members some peace of mind.
"Not everybody in your family may be a public servant," she said. "They may be working for private industry, and they may be getting their health care through the Affordable Health Care Act, and if, God forbid, you are working in a hospital and you do bring [COVID] home to them, what then? "
Subway Surface Supervisors Association President Mike Carrube, who has lost 13 members to the virus, said that among his rank and file, "anxiety is through the roof. And a lot of them don't want to be at work, I will be honest with you, but they have no choice."
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said, "Should we lose the prohibitions against denying coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, it puts at risk all of those folks, including people that had to go out to work to save us, first-responders, hospital workers. And now we see this infection rate affecting Teachers. So many of those Americans we lauded for their sacrifices are the very ones who are most at risk from losing health insurance because of COVID, which is now a preexisting condition."
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