High court to take up health care

The Supreme Court could upend the Affordable Care Act.
The Supreme Court could upend the Affordable Care Act.
In November, the U.S. Supreme Court will take up a case that could change whether Americans get health coverage for preexisting conditions.

  Republican state attorneys general, along with several individuals, brought the case, which focuses on "whether Congress’s zeroing out of the tax assessment in the Affordable Care Act for people who fail to obtain health insurance renders the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional," according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website. Here is a condensed account of the case known as California v. Texas, along with resources for better understanding:

The Background: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, was enacted in 2010 and is considered the signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama's administration. Almost right away, it was challenged. "In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act ... by characterizing the penalty for not buying health insurance as a tax, which Congress has the power to impose," recounts the website Oyez, a free law project from Cornell University's Legal Information Institute, Justia, and Chicago-Kent College of Law. "In 2017, the Republican-controlled Congress enacted an amendment to the ACA that set the penalty for not buying health insurance to zero, but it left the rest of the ACA in place. Texas and several other states and individuals filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the individual mandate again, arguing that because the penalty was zero, it can no longer be characterized as a tax and is therefore unconstitutional."

Why it matters:  As put by the ACLU: "The effect, were they [the Republican state attorneys general] to prevail, would be to invalidate the entire ACA, including the critically important provisions barring insurers from discriminating against people for prior conditions and the expansion of Medicaid to millions of Americans."
     So, if the ACA is overturned, a significant chunk of the population will feel the impact. The ACA expanded health coverage to 20 million Americans, according to the Center for American Progress.
     An estimated 52 percent of Americans approve of the ACA, according to Gallup.

How many people have preexisting conditions? An analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 50 million to 129 million (19 percent to 50 percent) of non-elderly Americans have some type of preexisting health condition. But that number could grow. "Covid-19 would likely become a preexisting condition without protections written into law," reports the Kaiser Family Foundation online. "In fact before the ACA, having taken hydroxychloroquine in the previous year — a marker for malaria, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis — could get you excluded from coverage."

When the case will be heard: Nov. 10, according to the Supreme Court's website.



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