The Affordable Care Act has been federal law for over a decade. Health care is always a critical issue. Yet now that we’re still in the midst of an active pandemic, we’re reminded every day of how important our health care is to our country’s basic functionality, and we’re reminded every day how the Affordable Care Act has become an essential part of the nation’s health care system.
So why are we talking about the U.S. Supreme Court potentially overturning the Affordable Care Act? This right here illustrates how dire this crisis truly is.
So why is this Obamacare lawsuit such a “big f–king deal”?
To avoid becoming overly repetitive, here’s a quick summary of what’s happening with the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare): An otherwise fringe lawsuit with sketchy legal merit at best has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court thanks to negative partisanship. And if President Donald Trump succeeds in installing Amy Coney Barrett in the Supreme Court, Republicans may finally secure the five votes they need to destroy the 2010 health care law.
Due to the ACA’s passage, the state set up Nevada Health Link as our ACA insurance marketplace. Because of the ACA, health insurance consumers with incomes from 100% to 400% of the federal poverty level qualify for subsidies to lower their insurance costs. Because of the ACA, these same consumers and others with qualifying insurance plans can not be discriminated against due to pre-existing conditions and must be provided essential health benefits at low or no additional cost. And because of the ACA, an additional 211,700 Nevadans (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation) have health insurance by way of Medicaid expansion.
Regardless of the political posturing we’ve been witnessing during Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing, we’re looking at a potentially troubling future of a hyper-partisan Supreme Court majority destroying the health care law that’s become such a major stabilizer for our health care system.
“It seems crazy that in the middle of a pandemic, we have people who still want to take away health care, yet that’s what Republicans are doing.”
– U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
During a virtual press conference organized by the health care advocacy group Protect Our Care to highlight the importance of the Affordable Care Act during this COVID-19 pandemic, during this latest fight over the future of the U.S. Supreme Court, and during the tail end of this 2020 election cycle, multiple speakers decried this bizarre scene where Senate Republican leaders are rushing to confirm Barrett while slow-walking to death legislation to address Americans’ health care and financial needs.
As U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) summed it up, “It seems crazy that in the middle of a pandemic, we have people who still want to take away health care, yet that’s what Republicans are doing.” And with at least 7.8 million Americans (quite possibly many more) who have contracted COVID-19 so far this year, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) noted, “To me, it’s unconscionable to do this when potentially millions of Americans have this pre-existing condition.”
PLAN Executive Director Laura Martin later pointed out, “The COVID-19 crisis has revealed how damaging this administration has been to our health care.” And as we’ve repeatedly pointed out on these pages, this COVID-19 crisis is a health care crisis that metastasized into a financial crisis and a global security crisis, and the lack of appropriate action to curb this crisis early on has only made it more severe and more catastrophic.
“Yes, we want Medicare for All. We want health care for all. But first, we need to protect the Affordable Care Act.”
– Laura Martin, PLAN
During today’s event, multiple speakers recalled the history of the Affordable Care Act, as well as what a growing number of Americans want the future of health care to look like. But instead, as Make It Work Nevada Executive Director Erika Washington lamented, “At this point, we shouldn’t even be having this conversation any more. We should be focusing more on the quality of health care, rather than fighting for access to health care.”
Or as Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), the only remaining Nevadan in Congress who voted on the ACA in 2010, more bluntly noted, “I’ve been a supporter of Medicare for All. That’s aspirational. I know it’s going to be slow going. But in the meantime, we should not get rid of what we have now.”
Other speakers also sought to make it clear to local progressives that the path to a better health care system will only become more treacherous if Trump succeeds in using the federal courts to destroy the ACA. As Martin pointed out, “Sometimes, we like to think the health care issue has been solved. […] Yes, we want Medicare for All. We want health care for all. But first, we need to protect the Affordable Care Act.”
“People are living in fear, not always over what they now have, but also over what they fear and what they anticipate.”
– U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen
Several of the speakers shared their own health care stories in highlighting the importance of the ACA. Rep. Lee’s own parents struggled to find health insurance after her father was laid off from his job and both were denied insurance due to pre-existing conditions. Martin expressed concern over how the end of the ACA’s lifting of insurance caps on coverage would affect her own coverage. And Washington shared how a car accident she survived in 2015 is still affecting her today.
As Washington recalled, “The surgery I had stemmed from the car accident I had over five years ago. I don’t know if I could have even had this surgery had it not been for the ACA.” She then relayed the questions she would have had to ask had she not had the insurance to cover her surgery: “Should I have this surgery to alleviate my pain? Should I go into debt?”
Earlier in the program, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D) reminded everyone, “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, over 200,000 Nevadans have coverage through Medicaid expansion. 77,000 Nevadans have coverage through Nevada Health Link. And 19,000 Nevadans can stay on their parents’ health plans.”
Rosen then noted something else that has made this year more difficult for millions of Americans: “People are living in fear, not always over what they now have, but also over what they fear and what they anticipate.”
“Health care was on the ballot then, and health care is on the ballot now.”
– U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen
During the call, multiple speakers pointed out that despite his repeated claims otherwise, Donald Trump has no plan to replace the Affordable Care Act’s patient protections and expansion of coverage should the Supreme Court strike it all down. Trump likes to brag about his executive orders, but those executive orders don’t actually guarantee anything.
And going back to the very sketchy “legal reasoning” behind the lawsuit that Republicans are using to threaten the ACA yet again, which is that the 2017 Trump Tax Law’s zeroing out of the individual mandate somehow negates the entire 2010 ACA, Cortez Masto reminded everyone that when Congress actually voted on ACA repeal in 2017 and 2018, ACA repeal failed. Or as Cortez Masto described it, “I was there in 2017, when Republicans under [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Kentucky] tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, including John McCain […], they didn’t succeed.”
But with Cortez Masto’s and Rosen’s Republican colleagues hellbent on confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court, what can anyone do to stop them? As Rosen recalled her own election to the Senate in 2018 with health care as a top issue, she declared, “Health care was on the ballot then, and health care is on the ballot now.” And as she promised to continue working to protect and improve the ACA, Lee declared, “I believe the American people will stand up and demand better health care for many more people.”
As we’ve previously discussed, this election probably will determine the future of America’s health care system. And now that Trump is trying to tip the scale at the Supreme Court in his favor, we’re all getting one more brutal reminder that what we do or don’t do in the next three weeks may very well have an effect on what policy makers do or don’t do to solve the health care crisis that’s become part of our everyday lives.
For more information on how to vote this year, check out the Nevada Secretary of State’s comprehensive site explaining our various options this year. If you’re already registered to vote at your current address and you voted in 2018, you will probably be mailed a ballot soon (if you haven’t received it already) thanks to AB 4 becoming state law in August. Once you receive your ballot, you can either mail it in or turn it in at a secure drop-off site. If you still need to register for the first time or update your registration, you can either register to vote online now or at a local voting site when in-person voting begins. And for more information on how to vote this fall, NBC News and The Washington Post have great resource guides to keep on deck.