August 01, 2019 

By Jennifer Bihm 

Contributing Writer 

 

Oral arguments began earlier this month on whether the Affordable Care Act, currently the healthcare law of the land should be dismantled and those defending it say its demise would put vulnerable and underserved communities, especially African American women and their families at serious risk.  The ACA and its protections, they said, are vital to ensuring members of underserved and vulnerable communities, have access to quality healthcare.  The argument: whether the individual mandate requiring citizens to have health insurance or face financial penalties, is constitutional and in turn whether the entire policy is constitutional.

 

Congress “didn’t really end the mandate” in 2017 as President Donald Trump laid out in a tax cut bill at the time, but instead kept it and “made it more coercive” and therefore unconstitutional, and for that matter so is the entire ACA. About 20 Republican state attorneys general and Republican governors from Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia filed a lawsuit last year on the heels of that tax cut, saying that the now supposedly defunct penalty cannot be severed from the rest of the ACA. Those defending the act say the suit is a maneuver after other repeated attempts by the Trump Administration to repeal it have failed since he was sworn in, in 2017.

 

But the chess game is with people’s lives, they said.

 

“The Trump administration’s and Congressional Republicans’ radical push to eliminate our current health care law through the courts would send costs skyrocketing and our entire health care system into chaos,” said Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.

 

“These attacks on our health care system would result in millions of African American women and their families losing pre-existing condition protections, paying more for care, or going without health insurance altogether. The consequences of President Trump’s and Republicans’ sabotage of our health care system are dire. African Americans deserve better than how they’ve been treated by the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans, especially when it comes to their health and wellbeing Senate Democrats are committed to fighting tooth and nail to protect health care for all Americans.”

 

“I’m watching it very closely,” said Dr. Elaine Batchelor of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles.

 

“The Affordable Care Act has done so much to provide care for the people we serve. Individuals [in our community] would be at risk of losing their insurance. We could go back to the days when emergency rooms were crowded, when people let ailments get to difficult to treat levels. This could be a human tragedy.”

 

Two individual plaintiffs from Texas who did not want to be penalized because of the mandate joined the plaintiff states last spring. Soon after, Democratic state attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia were allowed to intervene in the case to defend the ACA. These states were California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington. “These states sought to protect their interests in billions of dollars in federal funding under the ACA, to ensure that their residents have access to health care, and to prevent chaos in their health care systems if the ACA were found to be unconstitutional,” according to researchers at healthaffairs.org.

 

But Judge Reed O’Connor a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas, agreed with the plaintiffs and declared the entire ACA to be invalid.

 

“He issued this decision on December 14. He reaffirmed this decision in late December when issuing a stay and partial final judgment. This allowed the case to be appealed to the Fifth Circuit. In January 2019, the DOJ and Democratic attorneys general so appealed.” – healthaffairs.org.

 

“The dire consequences of this lawsuit would especially hurt African American women and their families,” Schumer said.

 

“African American women have higher rates of diabetes,  are more likely to die from cancer, and are more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.  Before the ACA, pregnancy, cancer, and even being a woman could be classified as a pre-existing condition. The removal of these protections would make it harder for women of color to access quality health care including birth control, cancer screenings, and affordable prenatal and postpartum care. A health care system without vital protections ensured by the ACA would exacerbate health care disparities for African American women and raise the cost of health care for millions more…”

 

According to White House, Healthcare.gov, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2019 enrollment will proceed as planned. Most legal experts agree that the law will likely stand, at least until it is reviewed by the Supreme Court. The high court is unlikely to hear the case until 2020.

Category: Health


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