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Despite pandemic, Trump and Republican governors still trying to repeal Affordable Care Act

This article was written boriginally published by the Wisconsin Gazette on May 9, 2020.


Despite the once-in-a-century challenge caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump administration and 18 states are still pushing for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, which would repeal the decade-old health law.

Kids Forward joined with Harvard’s Center for Law and Policy Innovation and more than 100 other organizations to ask the U.S. Justice Department and state officials to withdraw their lawsuits to topple the ACA.

Wisconsin was a party to the lawsuit while former Gov. Scott Walker was in office, but the state withdrew the suit after Tony Evers was elected governor and Josh Kaul was elected attorney general. Both are Democrats.

 

States throughout the country are grappling with unprecedented health care crises, economic downturns, and widespread surges in unemployment. Those challenges have caused millions of Americans to lose their health insurance. While not going nearly far enough, the ACA and Wisconsin’s BadgerCare program offer viable options for many people who’ve lost their health care plans. Kids Forward has posted a fact sheet summarizing health insurance options for people losing coverage.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the case, California v. Texas, later this year.

The U.S. Department of Justice and state attorneys general are asking the court to strike down the entire law. If they succeed, the ACA would in effect be repealed without anything to replace it. That would worsen the pandemic by leaving 22 million more Americans without health insurance.

The pandemic has already killed more than 77,000 people across the nation and 374 in Wisconsin (as of 1 p.m. on May 8).

Adult children who are on their parents’ insurance plans and tens of millions of people with pre-existing health conditions could find coverage out of their reach. The loss of the ACA would inequitably impact Black and Latinx residents. Wisconsin and the rest of the country would be in a far more precarious situation without the health care reform law.

Even with the ACA, more than 100,000 people in Wisconsin will likely become uninsured due to job losses caused by the pandemic. According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study conducted by the Urban Institute, between 350,000 and a million Wisconsinites could lose their employer-sponsored health insurance along with their jobs.

Right now, many of those losing coverage qualify for BadgerCare. Adults with family incomes above the poverty level can enroll in an ACA Marketplace plan. The RWJ study estimates that the number of Wisconsinites covered in the Marketplace — currently about 195,000 — will jump by at least 50 percent and possibly as much as 150 percent or 289,000.  

But a court ruling striking down the ACA would end the ACA Marketplace, leaving those people who rely on it without any insurance.

The demise of the ACA would take us back to the bad old days when, even if you had employer-sponsored coverage, insurers could bar coverage for treatment of “pre-existing conditions” for a year or more. It would also bring back “job lock,” forcing people to stay in jobs for fear that their health conditions might not be covered if they switched jobs or started a business.

Eliminating the ACA now would be catastrophic. We cannot risk destabilizing our already-strained, patchwork health care system by destroying a law that is deeply entrenched in almost all aspects of health systems and the lives of millions of families. Under normal circumstances, access to affordable, effective health care can mean the difference between life and death.

Of course, health coverage is more important now than ever. Everyone needs access to testing and treatment for COVID-19, as well as access to necessary routine medical care. The federal government should be working to ensure that everyone has coverage instead of asking the Supreme Court to endanger the lives of millions by ripping up the ACA.

Wisconsin and the rest of the nation have so much as stake.