As we celebrate a huge victory for the ACA, let’s remember who benefits most: healthcare consumers and patients.
I admit, my heart was in my throat waiting for the ruling in King v. Burwell, the latest and perhaps most significant challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. At risk were the tax subsidies for more than six million Americans who don’t make enough money to afford health insurance otherwise.
But there was even more at risk. Had the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the tax subsidies, insurance rates would have skyrocketed for everyone. That’s because people who could no longer afford insurance would have dropped out of the market, and the fewer people there are in the insurance pool the more it costs everyone.
Even worse, without health insurance there are, without question, people who would have died. The ACA makes it possible even for people with serious, pre-existing conditions like cancer to be able to afford insurance. A ruling against Obamacare would have put lives at risk.
Thank goodness, sanity prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 today to uphold the tax subsidies. You can read the decision HERE, but this quote from the majority opinion sums it up nicely:
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.
Millions of Americans who are receiving subsidies to help paying for insurance are breathing a giant sigh of relief today, but so are millions of others who would have faced rate increases if the subsidies had been struck down.
Mary McHugh of Kailua, Hawaii, is one of those people. With the help of tax subsidies, her monthly premium has been as low as $139/month. Without the subsidies, it would have been $465/month — which she says she simply could not afford. Even though Hawaii’s tax subsidies weren’t at risk in the Supreme Court case, an increase in McHugh’s insurance premium could have forced her to go without insurance, something she had to do for 11 years before Obamacare.
McHugh decided to change careers 13 years ago, and when she started her own massage therapy business she could not afford insurance. She could not even afford catastrophic insurance just to cover hospitalization. Instead, she bought extra coverage for her auto insurance and hoped for the best.
I went to the doctor and paid cash when I absolutely had to. There was only one time I asked the doctor to do a full range of blood work, and another time I needed an ultrasound. In that 11 years I got very lucky. I’m healthy and did my best to take care of myself on my own.
Once insurance became available through the ACA, the 58-year-old McHugh jumped at the chance to get covered. And she says, “the universe must have found out I had health insurance, because I’ve had some mishaps since then.”
After being attacked by a feral cat, she needed multiple trips to the doctor and the emergency room, and a round of IV antibiotics. She also had a nasty cold that turned into bronchitis and pneumonia, which also required treatment. Bills for those treatments added up quickly.
It would have soaked me to be stuck with all those hospital bills. If I didn’t have insurance, I might have just tried to tough it out.
I’m so grateful that President Obama pushed for this and made it possible for people like me, a small business owner, to get insurance.
In one of life’s cool coincidences, McHugh had the honor of providing massage therapy services to President and Mrs. Obama during a visit to Hawaii right after the 2008 election.
“They were wonderful,” she says, “and Obamacare is a wonderful thing.”