The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is saving lives.
Believe it or not, many people across the country think this statement is false, even borderline blasphemous. But I can’t understand why.
Based on every significant metric, this law has overachieved. The ACA has consistently exceeded enrollment benchmarks, it has resulted in a significant decrease in the uninsured rate, and over the next decade the Congressional Budget Office expects it to cost less than projected. The ACA has uplifted so many lives in so many parts of the country, particularly among low-income Americans; and yet, this transformative law has not lived up to its fullest potential because it is constantly under attack.
And sadly, the struggle is far from over. In the next few months, the ACA will face its most challenging test yet as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments for the upcoming case, King v. Burwell.
This case could have earth-shattering ramifications for the future of the ACA. Millions of consumers who purchased coverage through healthcare.gov, the federal health benefits exchange, risk losing their tax credits if the Supreme Court rules against the Obama administration. To put this into context, 87 percent of the 9.5 million consumers (roughly 8 million people) received financial assistance to pay for their monthly health coverage premiums; this population would be in danger of facing skyrocketing costs and could lose their coverage altogether. Perhaps most painfully, children and patients with life-threatening conditions stand to lose the most if the court votes to strip millions of their fundamental civil right to health care.
Fortunately for Californians, this would have no effect on people enrolled through Covered California. But in the 36 states that did not create state-based health insurance marketplaces, the effect would be tragic.
Recently, Greenlining’s Claiming Our Democracy fellow and my good friend, Zainab Badi, outlined how existing barriers to voting thwart our collective efforts to form a “truly inclusive democracy.” I believe this same argument applies to access to health care. In the way that voting reflects our commitment to equality and self-determination, so too is health care a basic human right inextricably linked to life and liberty. Even as the ACA is set to confront its biggest threat yet, it is important for us to remind ourselves how much this law has accomplished to bridge deeply rooted health disparities and literally save lives. It would be devastating if the Supreme Court reversed this progress. We can only hope that the Supreme Court understands this too.