The Affordable Care Act, which turned 10 this week, is providing a lifeline to millions losing jobs and employer-provided health insurance: Our view
Highly controversial, though it should not be, and the subject of much emotion, though it should not be, the law is pretty much solely responsible for approximately 26 million people, or about 8% of the population, having health insurance today. And, oh yes, it turned 10 this week.
The law means fewer people showing up at emergency rooms because they have nowhere else to go. It means more people getting medical advice that could help them avoid contracting the coronavirus. It provides considerable comfort to millions of Americans who have plenty of other things to worry about.
Stabilize insurance markets
Millions of workers are losing their jobs — and often their employer-provided health coverage — because of the pandemic. It's more important than ever that they have the ability to find insurance, regardless of any preexisting conditions, on the Obamacare marketplaces or through the law's expansion of Medicaid. The ACA gives them a safety net.
While the HealthCare.gov window for acquiring coverage in 2020 ended in December, a one-time enrollment period can, and should, be opened now to allow individuals to sign up. That would help stabilize insurance markets and prevent premiums from spiking.
The 11 states that manage their own health insurance exchanges have already done so. The main insurance lobbying organization and the Republican governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, are among those calling for this to be done nationwide.
Not everyone, however, shares this rosy view of the ACA. The Trump administration and most Republicans still favor abolishing the law, throwing millions of people off the ranks of the insured. They mount this campaign while blithely referring to replacement plans that do not exist. Eagerly, they anticipate that the Supreme Court will do what they themselves could not do and terminate the law.
Their effort began even before Donald Trump’s election, with multiple failed votes to repeal the law in Congress, and two efforts to kill it in court, one of which fell a vote shy in the Supreme Court.
Individual mandate back in court
Since Trump’s election, Republicans have tried again unsuccessfully to repeal the law, but they managed to get rid of one key provision, a requirement that all Americans purchase health coverage. Now the law's opponents are back in court, arguing that because the individual mandate was eliminated, the courts must condemn the rest of the law.
The mere act of eliminating the individual mandate looks pretty stupid in light of today’s pandemic. U.S. officials are now telling people to shut down their businesses, work from home, even stay inside — and we couldn’t ask citizens to make our health care system more robust?
Officials were worried about the "free rider" financial burden on hospitals when just a couple of years ago they said, in effect, go ahead and be public charges if you get sick. Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the repeal of this one provision would cause the ranks of the uninsured to rise by 5 million by 2029. Some of this has likely already taken place.
When someone who decides not to buy insurance shows up at the emergency room with the coronavirus or some other illness, guess who ends up paying the bill? Everyone else, in the form of higher premiums and tax dollars. It's the opposite of personal responsibility.
The Affordable Care Act is not some socialist plot but a sound (though hardly perfect) way to expand coverage, reduce costs and, yes, deal with public health crises. Its basic concept of Americans being required to buy coverage from insurers who were required to sell it came from the conservative Heritage Foundation in a 1989 paper called, "Assuring Affordable Health Care for All Americans."
In fact, 17 Republicans (and three Democrats) turned the Heritage plan into a bill in 1994, known as the HEART Act that they offered as an alternative to a plan offered by the Clinton administration.
Since President Barack Obama essentially borrowed the plan, Republicans have done their best to demonize the law and try to destroy it, while denying their own parentage. There's just one word for this given the public health threat: insane.
USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.
If you can't see this reader poll, please refresh your page.