The health insurance coverage future is uncertain for many Americans. The fate of nearly 20 million people lies in the hands of nine justices of the Supreme Court. President Trump was adamant to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and continuously attacked this law till the very end of his term. Oral hearings for the case began in November 2020, and the next hearing is scheduled in the mid of 2021. If the ACA law gets overturned by the Supreme Court and termed unconstitutional, then the implications of the Supreme Court decision would be far and wide. Repealing this act at any point since its passage would have been disastrous to the health of Americans but repealing it in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected over 7 million Americans and killed over 200,000 Americans is morally condemnable.
Some of the implications of repealing the Affordable Care Act are discussed below:
20 million Americans are expected to lose insurance coverage
It has been estimated by the Urban Institute that if ACA is overturned, then the number of uninsured people would increase by nearly 20 million people. Some experts have stated that this number could be higher amidst the corona virus pandemic, particularly when millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their job-based coverage at historic levels.
Individuals with Preexisting Conditions could be denied Coverage
The Affordable Care Act has prevented health insurance carriers to deny health coverage to individuals having preexisting medical conditions. These carriers are not allowed to discriminate against consumers based on their medical history, which means they cannot deny coverage or charge higher premiums from such individuals. In a country where 130 million people have preexisting conditions, repealing the Affordable Care Act will have dire consequences.
There will be a rise in the health care costs
The Affordable Care Act provides tax credits to low-income individuals and families that reduce monthly premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for them. Without the Affordable Care Act, health insurance carriers may implement annual and lifetime limits on coverage even for people having employer plans, and can also reinstate cost-sharing for preventive services.
Loss of Jobs
According to the estimates of the urban Institute, repealing the ACA could cause financial difficulties that may ripple the economy. If the costs of health care increase then millions of Americans will have less money to spend on necessities items like food and rent. The Covid-19 pandemic has lead to around 1.2 million job loss, thereby adding to the worries of financially affected people.
Throw Insurance Markets into Chaos
Repealing the ACA with no proper alternative would create havoc on the health insurance markets. It is expected that repealing the act could disrupt a huge sector of the insurance market and that may leave millions unable to afford care in the middle of a pandemic, with the country waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision in the case. With a record number of people losing their health coverage, they will be deprived of both the required preventive and curative care. The rise in the uninsured rate during the COVID-19 pandemic would be extremely fatal because the uninsured will not only risk their own lives by delaying or avoiding treatment but unintentionally spreading the corona virus without adequate and affordable care.
Small Business Employees and Self Employed would be unable to Afford any Coverage
The Affordable Care Act is considered a lifeline for employees of small businesses and self-employed people. Before ACA, the majority of such people were either uninsured or had other affordable coverage options. After the ACA implementation, the uninsured rate for such people has dropped nearly by 10%. Now at an economic crisis, these employees of small businesses and individuals have been struggling to survive. and this pandemic spread stripping coverage from millions of small-business employees risks their physical and financial health. Without the ACA, several self employed people and small business employees would become uninsured or will be unable to afford health coverage.
People under the Age of 26 may Lose Access to Coverage under their Parent’s Plan
One of the most popular components of the Affordable Care Act allowed individuals under the age of 26 years to remain covered under their parent’s plan. This dependent coverage has helped millions of young people gain access to health insurance. This provision of health coverage proves more beneficial during the Covid-19 pandemic, as younger people have experienced more job losses and even job-based health insurance. Besides, the reopening of schools and colleges has also put younger people at risk for contracting and spreading Covid-19, thus making the loss of quality coverage for young adults a greater cause for concern.
There could be again Discrimination against Women
Without the Affordable Care Act in place, health insurance carriers would be allowed to charge women more, a common practice before the ACA. The Affordable Care Act prohibited the health care market to discriminate against women, and a return to this practice may cost women $1 billion more annually than men. Insurers would be once again allowed to discriminate against women by charging them more for coverage.
Drugs Costs for Seniors would Increase
If the Affordable Care Act is repealed then millions of Americans would pay more for their prescription drugs including lifesaving drugs that treat Covid-19. The ACA has lowered drug costs for seniors by bridging the Medicare Part D coverage. The ACA included prescription drugs in its list of essential health benefits, and before the ACA, individual plans were not required to cover prescription drugs. After the ACA essential health benefits requirements, 1.3 million Americans received prescription drug coverage. If the ACA gets repealed then health insurers could exclude all drugs, leaving some patients with high out-of-pocket costs and some may even be unable to afford the treatments they required.
Employers May No Longer be Offering Health Insurance
The ACA required employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer affordable health insurance to at least 95% of their employees, and employers who fail to offer coverage or who offer unaffordable coverage may see a penalty. Thus, if the ACA is repealed, then many employers could drop offering health insurance to their employees.
The consequences of repealing the ACA might be frightening for many but people should not lose hope, as with the new government coming people might expect that their voice will be heard and this law will be kept intact for their betterment.