There is a giant photo of Mikey Williams, his family inside the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation hearing. What he wants lawmakers to remember.

Grace Hauck
 
| USA TODAY

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Barrett: I made no promises to Trump on ACA ruling

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett says she has not promised to anyone, including President Donald Trump, that she would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. She called any such pledge a “gross violation of judicial independence.” (Oct. 13)

CHICAGO – Mikey Williams takes about 25 pills a day for seven different medications to manage his cystic fibrosis, plus two to three treatments he inhales through a nebulizer.

“In my life, it’s just normal,” Mikey, 21, a senior at Illinois State University studying biology education, told USA TODAY on Tuesday. “If the Affordable Care Act wasn’t here, I would potentially not be able to get the treatments I get every day.”

As Mikey drove to his student-teaching job Tuesday morning, a photo of his family – six smiling faces in Santa outfits sitting below stockings hung on the fireplace – was displayed in the background of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Democratic senators have rotated a carousel of portraits and family photos of Americans – a young boy holding a baseball glove, a girl hugging a dog next to a cake – that they say would be affected by the elimination of the Affordable Care Act, which faces a challenge on Nov. 10, one week after the election.

Confirmation hearing updates: Barrett defends her faith, says ‘rule of law’ would drive her judgment

It will be the third time the law has reached the high court in eight years; five votes could eliminate or weaken it. This time, it’s about whether a tax penalty that Congress eliminated in 2017 can be severed from the law, or whether that would bring down the rest of the law.

Democrats have concerns Barrett will be a – if not the – deciding vote. 

“The Affordable Care Act really is at the heart of this, as you can tell, on the Democratic side,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday. “We really believe the Supreme Court consideration of that case could literally change America for millions of people.”

From Naperville, Illinois, Cathy and Les William have four sons, and Les and the sons all have preexisting conditions, Cathy Williams said in a video circulated by Durbin’s office. Les and their eldest son, Matt, 27, have type-1 diabetes. Matt was diagnosed when he was 13.

Their three other sons were born with cystic fibrosis, Cathy Williams said. Joey, 24, Mikey and Mikey’s twin, Tommy, who died in January 2019 from complications related to cystic fibrosis. The Williams have insurance coverage through Les’ employer, and the Affordable Care Act allows their sons to remain on their plan up to age 26.

“Through the years we’ve been able to mange the expense of our care and keep our family healthy, thanks to the Affordable Care Act,” Cathy Williams said in the video. “The out-of-pocket cap allows our family to get the doctor visits, lab work, treatments, procedures, and daily medications without it being a devastating financial burden.”

Joey Williams, 24, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 3 years old. He said that, without the Affordable Care Act, he would have to skip some medications “just to make ends meet.”

“I don’t know if I would be able to afford all of my medication if I had my insurance denied, or my premium price gouged because of my preexisting condition,” he said in the video. “And the part that kills me is that I actually have a decent-paying job but I still don’t think that would be enough to survive on if I lost my Affordable Care Act benefits.”

Supreme Court showdown: Health care law faces another challenge, this time without Justice Ginsburg’s vote

While Tommy died nearly two years ago, he was able to have a “pretty normal, healthy, precious 19 years with us,” Cathy said. She said she worries that if the Affordable Care Act is eliminated, her family would not have access to or be able to afford the insurance they need.

“Our boys have been fortunate to have access to specialized care. That care has allowed us almost 20 years of cherished memories as a complete family. Though grieving, we’re grateful for that continued care for our other sons,” Cathy and Les Williams said in a statement.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the stories were “compelling” but not relevant to the confirmation hearing.

Asked if she believed that any individual Americans’ health care status was tied to her confirmation, Barrett said that it was “not tied” to her nomination.

“Any policy preferences that I have don’t matter anyway. They’re irrelevant. Making that law, coming up with the contours of the Affordable Care Act, that’s your job,” Barrett told the senators.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, asked Barrett on Tuesday about the “suspicion” over whether she’d made any commitments on any issues, including how she might rule on the Affordable Care Act.

“I want to be very, very clear about this Sen. Grassley. The answer is no,” Barrett said. “No one ever talked about any case with me. No one on the executive branch side of it.”

While Barrett has criticized Chief Justice John Roberts’ 5-4 ruling in the original case in 2012 – when the court was asked to decide if the entire law was unconstitutional – the case coming before the high court next month involves a completely different issue, she said.

The latest effort by Texas and 17 allied states to strike down the 10-year-old law stems from a $1.5 trillion tax cut passed by the Republican-dominated Congress in 2017, which repealed the health care law’s tax on people who refuse to buy insurance. That tax was intended to prod them into the health insurance marketplace rather than let them seek emergency care while uninsured.

In December 2018, federal District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that without the tax, the law could not survive. His ruling, which was put on hold while it was appealed, threatened to wipe out insurance for 20 million people, protection for those with preexisting conditions, subsidies for low-income people, Medicaid expansions in many states, coverage for young adults up to age 26 and more. 

About 133 million people have preexisting conditions, according to a 2017 government report.

Contributing: Christal Hayes and Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

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