This past Monday, the Department of Justice took unprecedented action against the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), when they filed a letter with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Coming right on the heels of a U.S. District Court judge’s ruling in Texas that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional based on the recent repeal of the individual mandate, the Department of Justice took the extraordinary step of changing its position and no longer supporting the law.
If this legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act is successful, it could imperil over 20 million Americans who currently rely on the law for access to affordable health insurance. Currently, Obamacare helps to protect low-income Americans through a Medicaid expansion, provide insurance to those who have pre-existing conditions, and place caps on the cost of treatment to those who have cancer or hemophilia. It’s no surprise that many people are worried about potential changes to Obamacare.
So, what exactly is happening right now with the Affordable Care Act?
State Attorneys General Bring A Legal Challenge
A group of Attorneys General from states around the country have already challenged the administration’s desire to repeal Obamacare. Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, is leading the charge along with 20 other states to help preserve Obamacare.
“The Affordable Care Act is an integral part of our healthcare system,” said Becerra. “For the last nine years, it has ensured that seniors, young adults, women, children and working families have access to high-quality affordable care. It has prevented insurance companies from discriminating against 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. Because no American should fear losing healthcare, we will defend the ACA every step of the way.”
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has publicly stated that “the Department of Justice has the obligation, just as I do with Colorado law, to defend and enforce the law,” and that the court’s legal opinion for the decision in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act is implausible.
And while the Attorneys General from the states who are fighting for the Affordable Care Act with Becerra are all Democratic, Republicans have come out against this repeal as well. Dave Yost, the Attorney General from Ohio, has said that while he believes the individual mandate to have been unconstitutional, he does not believe that removing the mandate invalidates the entire law. Yost told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he plans to file a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief will argue the individual mandate can be removed from the law without eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions, insurance caps and other parts of the law.”
What an Obamacare Replacement Might Look Like
There have already been bipartisan efforts to lower prescription drug prices, which has been a growing concern for Americans. The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act aims to make pharmaceutical companies more competitive by opening up the market to generic medicines without a delay. The bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, with much bipartisan support.
But the prescription drug problem only touches on one issue within the health insurance industry. If Obamacare is, in fact, repealed, low-income Americans, people with pre-existing conditions, and people who have enjoyed the Medicaid expansion stand to suffer the most. And while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has thrown his support behind the President, the Republicans still don’t seem to have a clear plan of action should the law be repealed.
“The president has always been very clear that he wanted to repeal Obamacare and put a system in that actually lowers the costs, protects individuals’ pre-existing conditions and have a health care system that works,” said McCarthy. But he was unable to expand on a solid proposal for how to “have a health care system that works.”
The Democrats have been planning to campaign on improvements to the current health insurance law rather than starting from scratch with a repeal and replace. There is a bill in Congress right now that would “strengthen the tax credits that help marketplace enrollees within a certain income level afford their monthly premiums and would raise the income level threshold for qualifying for those subsidies.” In addition, the measure would also “fund a reinsurance program to help cover high-cost patients, as well as programs to help people sign up for insurance coverage and for outreach, both of which the Trump administration has scaled back since taking office.”
Health Insurance Anxiety
There’s no denying that having access to adequate and affordable health insurance has been a top priority for people all across the country over the past few years. Health care costs have skyrocketed, and it puts emotional and financial stress on many families.
The battle over the Affordable Care Act might not end any time soon, but staying up to date on any potential changes can help you to become an advocate for the changes that you would like to see implemented by Congress. Don’t be afraid to take action! If you have an opinion about how the Affordable Care Act should change, contact your representatives. You can contact the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to ask to be connected to your representative and have your voice be heard.
For more updates about healthcare and Medicare, be sure to visit our Medicare Resource Center.