SCOTUS Hears Arguments in Latest Attempt to Abolish the Affordable Care Act
As more than 238,000 Americans families mourn losses caused by COVID-19, the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday is hearing Republicans argue against the last defense millions have in the fight to stay healthy: the Affordable Care Act.
On the surface, the case is centered around the constitutionality of the individual mandate — the fee that came along at tax time if you had not been covered by some form of health insurance through the year. The mandate was the stick of sorts that encouraged people to get coverage before they fell ill. That fee was already reduced to $0 by Congress in 2019, tied up in a larger tax reform bill.
Gutting the mandate revenue and incentive aspect of the ACA was not enough for the GOP and current Trump administration, who’ve made it a mission to fully destroy former President Barack Obama’s legacy health care law that extended coverage to millions of uninsured people, with or without preexisting conditions. What they want is the one-two punch: Have the mandate ruled unconstitutional and have the ruling made clear that the mandate is inseparable from the overarching law.
The SCOTUS already ruled in 2012 that the ACA was not unconstitutional. Tuesday’s case is another in a long road of attempts that have found new footing in a sea of GOP-appointed federal judges and SCOTUS justices. In the pandemic landscape we live in, consequence of the decision is immeasurable. Adding another level of detriment to the mix is the fact that at least 11 million people are still unemployed, largely due to the raging virus, and do not have access to employer health care plans.
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It’s currently estimated that more than 23 million people are insured under the ACA. But, abolishing “Obamacare” would impact far more people than those insured by it. Government analysis in 2017 reported that about 133 million people in the U.S. suffer from pre-existing conditions. About 54 million of those conditions fall into categories health insurance companies used to deny coverage in the past — the remaining would historically be charged higher premiums.
But hold on, it gets worse.
Let’s not forget that long-term effects of COVID-19 may also be considered pre-existing conditions in the future. John Hopkins University reports Tuesday that more than 10 million Americans have so far tested positive for the virus and, according to a survey conducted in Korea, upwards of 90 percent of all infected people report lingering side effects after recovery, which, in the worst case scenario could result in…wait for it…pre-existing conditions.
In summary, the SCOTUS, with its now 6-3 conservative lean, could decide to abolish the landmark health care law in the same moment when a raging pandemic is causing widespread illness and economic devastation.