If SCOTUS eliminates the ACA’s tax credits, Dolly and Chip would no longer be able to afford insurance — and the consequences could be life-threatening.
UPDATE: After this story was posted, Dolly resubmitted an application for Medicaid and she and her husband were accepted into the program based on their very low income. So although they are no longer at risk of losing their health insurance, their story is an example of what millions of other Americans could face in the wake of the King v. Burwell case.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working. Millions are finally able to afford health insurance — many because of tax credits the law provides to help those who otherwise couldn’t afford the monthly premiums. The people who receive tax credits are middle-class Americans and the working poor.
Dolly and Chip Harris of South Haven, Michigan, are the kind of people the ACA (aka Obamacare) is designed to help. They shared their story at Eclectablog of getting insurance for the first time since 1996 — a turn of events last year that resulted in Chip being diagnosed with a serious chronic lung condition called COPD.
Without insurance, his medication would cost more than $500 a month, which is far more than the couple can afford. Dolly works as a waitress and Chip can no longer work because of the COPD. They’re both in their late 50s.
Even though their insurance premiums and costs went up a bit this year, they’re still grateful to have insurance. But the U.S. Supreme Court could change all that.
The challenge to the ACA in the King v. Burwell case claims that the ACA specifies that only states that create their own health insurance marketplaces — instead of using the federal marketplace at Healthcare.gov — are eligible for tax credits to help pay for coverage. Obamacare supporters, including many who helped write the law, say that simply isn’t true. In fact, 11 diverse organizations have filed amicus briefs with the court supporting the ACA.
A ruling is expected on King v. Burwell in June after the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on March 4th. If SCOTUS eliminates tax subsidies for the states that don’t have their own exchanges, like Michigan, millions would suddenly find insurance unaffordable.
Right now, Chip and Dolly pay $40 a month for their insurance, with a $900 deductible they have to meet before their prescriptions are covered with no co-pay. Without tax subsidies, their premiums would be about $1,200 a month. Dolly says they just can’t afford that — which would mean her husband going without the medication he needs to manage his COPD.
We’d go broke. I mean, we’re already broke but we’re getting by. But we can’t afford my husband’s medicine without insurance.
I work as hard as I can and it would be a serious danger to my husband’s health to go without his medication. Sometimes he coughs so hard I worry he can’t catch his breath. I worry about him. If we can’t get his medicine his health would really go downhill.
Like Dolly and Chip, most people who qualify for tax credits aren’t eligible for Medicaid. In fact, she applied but was denied. So the gap that already exists for people who don’t make enough to afford insurance but make too much to qualify for Medicaid would widen.
The opponents of the ACA who brought this case to the Supreme Court don’t seem to care that thousands of lives are at stake. In fact, it’s estimated that 9,800 Americans will die every year if the tax credits are wiped out for states that don’t run their own insurance marketplace.
It’s time to stop playing with people’s lives and let the ACA stand. Can it be improved? Absolutely, and legislators should be focused on that — not on taking yet another vote to repeal the law. This week marks the 56th such vote in Congress, which is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars that could be better spent on, say, further expanding Medicaid or neutralizing the cost of tax subsidies.
Republicans have proposed an alternative to the ACA, although it sharply reduces tax subsidies and halts Medicaid expansion, while also eliminating other consumer protections. That’s not a solution that helps the average American — and that’s the problem right there.
Every effort to repeal, dismantle or gut the ACA has nothing to do with helping the American people. It’s time for our country’s legislators — and courts — to make doing what’s right for the health of Americans the top priority.
Do you have a story you’d like to share about how Obamacare is helping you — and how a decision against the ACA in King v. Burwell would impact you? Drop me a note HERE.