Abolishing Obamacare would cause needless suffering and death

To the Editor:

Dr. Margaret Craven identified some important facts about how the pandemic reveals problems in our health system. [Letters to the Editor, The Altamont Enterprise, “Pandemic has laid bare the defects of our employment-based insurance coverage.” May 14, 2020]. People concerned about health care may also be interested in the facts about some politicians’ efforts to seek a Supreme Court ruling to end Obamacare, a ruling that would likely kill people.

Eighteen Republican-led states and the Trump administration are asking the Supreme Court to throw out the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. In a 2012 Supreme Court decision, the court rejected an across-the-board challenge to the law but did invalidate provisions that would have extended health insurance coverage to families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federally set “poverty level,” and to poor adults without children.

The court ruling resulted in about 4.7 million people in 14 Republican-led states going without insurance and approximately 15,600 deaths between 2010 and 2019, an estimate published by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research. These are the type of outcomes that result from efforts to limit or end Obamacare.

In the case that will be heard by the Supreme Court this fall, 21 Democrat-led states and the United States House of Representatives have intervened in the litigation, urging the court to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

Although the Affordable Care Act is cumbersome, and fails to solve a host of problems, its expansion of coverage to millions and other accomplishments are indisputable. If the “Abolish Obamacare” proponents have a legislative proposal that would maintain current levels of coverage, bar exclusions for pre-existing conditions, and improve cost efficiency, where is the non-partisan analysis supporting those assertions?

Improving health care, a daunting task, is not the goal of these “abolitionists,” and their zeal for political victory is immune to COVID-19.

The mere fact that an “Abolish Obamacare” case is before the Supreme Court during this pandemic adds to the anxieties faced by poor and middle-income people, as well as health providers. Should the Affordable Care Act be invalidated, the millions of people who would lose coverage provided through the law would be joined by millions losing coverage from pandemic related unemployment.

It is impossible to predict the needless suffering and death that would result in the Capital Region and across the U.S. Given the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in African-American communities, such a court ruling would add a chapter to the appalling history of race in this country.

Although the possibility of a destructive Supreme Court decision is horrifying, a competent Congress and president could enact legislation to remedy the crisis in health care. The chances for electing genuine leaders would be increased by voters pressing 2020 candidates to explain precisely what actions they would take to improve the Affordable Care Act.

Zealous politicians spouting “Abolish Obamacare” rhetoric cannot be allowed to evade the harsh facts — all candidates must confront what living without health insurance means for individuals, families, and health providers.  

Stephan Haimowitz, J.D.


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