The Death of the Affordable Care Act

By Catherine Baxter, Charlotte County Dems writer

The latest threat to the health of millions of Americans is looming large – the death of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Enacted in stages from 2010-2014, the ACA required employers with over 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance.  It subsidized coverage for those who earned under certain income limits and did not have employer-paid insurance.  It allowed children to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26, required that everyone have coverage in order to spread the risk pool, and it prohibited insurance companies from charging more or denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions.

According to the federal government’s own Department of Health and Human Services, up to 133 million non-elderly Americans, or more than 40% of the population, have pre-existing conditions. Among those aged 55-64, up to 84 percent, or another 31 million people, are in this situation.  The most common pre-existing conditions are high blood pressure, behavioral health disorders, high cholesterol, asthma, heart conditions, diabetes, and cancer.  Even arthritis counts as a pre-existing condition!  Although I am fit and healthy, I was denied health insurance in my 40’s because I have arthritis, headaches, and use an anti-depressant.  If the ACA is overturned, then tens of millions of Americans may be denied medical coverage.

The Republican Party has attacked the ACA since before it began…and their attacks have been ceaseless.   E-Healthinsurance provides a timeline:

  • January 2011: A Florida judge ruled that elements of the Affordable Care Act are unconstitutional.
  • November 14, 2011: The US Supreme Court agrees to hear arguments that elements of the ACA are unconstitutional.
  • June 28, 2012: The US Supreme Court upheld the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
  • March 4, 2015 – King v. Burwell: The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments for a lawsuit challenging the ACA. King argues that regulations implemented by the IRS exceed its authority.
  • June 25, 2015 – King v. Burwell: The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that subsidies could be distributed through Healthcare.gov, the Federal Exchange, if a state did not set up its own exchange.
  • November 20, 2016: Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, says “President-elect Donald Trump will prioritize repealing President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law right ‘out of the gate’ once he takes office.”
  • July 17, 2017: Republican Party again attempts to gut provisions of the ACA.  Their bill is defeated on the vote of Senator John McCain, who had just been diagnosed with the brain cancer that took his life.
  • December 2017:  Congress passes the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which benefited corporations and the wealthy and removed the penalty to individuals who did not purchase health insurance.

On November 10, 2020, the Supreme Court will again hear arguments that the ACA is unconstitutional.  With the death of Justice Ginsburg, the chances of repeal have just shot up to the high danger zone.  Before the COVID-19 onslaught of sickness and unemployment, it was forecast that repealing the ACA would result in 20 million people losing coverage.  We can only speculate on what that number might be in our present awful state of affairs.

In an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care®, Larry Levitt, executive vice president for health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation said: “The ACA has had a tremendous [positive] effect and without it, we would be in even worse shape right now heading into this double whammy of a public health crisis and an economic crisis.  Without the ACA, there would be no safety net as people are losing their jobs and their health insurance.”

Without the ACA, COVID-19 will have lingering after-effects for many.  Get sick, lose your job, and now, because you had COVID-19, you may be deemed to have a preexisting condition, which could make you ineligible for insurance.  In addition, your employer will no longer have the mandate to provide insurance.  Is this what you want to vote for?

Oh, and by the way, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, repealing the ACA would cut taxes for the top wealthiest 0.1% of the country by an average of $198,000.   Now we know why the Republicans want to repeal it!

Vote for Joe Biden and the entire Democratic ticket on Nov 3rd to preserve and enhance healthcare for all Americans, not just the wealthy who can afford it.

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