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What court ruling on Affordable Care Act means to real people

Photo Credit: Peshkova/iStock Photo

What does the Republicans’ delay-and-repeal strategy on the Affordable Care Act mean for people with pre-existing conditions?

“I have had a lot of health problems all my life. Pre-existing conditions have always affected me,” said Denise Smith, who lives in Rocky Gap. “I had employers that wanted to hire me but couldn’t because their group insurance costs would go way up. Private insurance was out of reach for me because of pre-existing conditions.”

If the Affordable Care Act is overturned or repealed, 3,580,300 people with pre-existing conditions like Smith, a member of Virginia Organizing’s State Governing Board, stand to lose protections.

A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

The court issued a delay and sent the case, styled Texas v. United States, back to a lower court.

While the ACA battle plays out in court, healthcare opponents in Washington have been clear: they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the essential protections it provides for millions of American families, seniors, veterans, women, and children.

The news also concerns Virginians who benefit from the state’s recent expansion of Medicaid. First approved in 2018 and implemented in January, Medicaid expansion provides healthcare coverage to 360,000 residents. The Affordable Care Act provides federal funding for 90 percent of the cost of expansion.

“I wouldn’t be here without Medicaid expansion,” said Terry White, a Chesapeake resident and member of the Norfolk Chapter of Virginia Organizing. “Before Virginia expanded Medicaid, I had a heart attack that cost me $26,000. Congestive heart failure, $27,000. Prostate cancer operation, $71,000. Radiation treatment, $51,000. I couldn’t pay those bills. Thank God I’m still here.”

The Affordable Care Act also extends savings to people with private insurance plans.

When Nathan Auldridge was 22 years old, doctors diagnosed him with a brain tumor. As a result of his treatment, he developed narcolepsy that required ongoing medication. Before the ACA, Auldridge’s prescriptions cost him more than $1,200 each month.

“The ACA has saved me $54,400 in six years thanks to its protections on pre-existing conditions and cost-sharing reductions. I don’t earn a lot of money doing the work I do,” said Auldridge, a Salem resident who works with people with disabilities. “I now pay only $45 a month for twice the medication.”

More than 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions remain at risk of losing protections and millions of Americans could see their premiums rise. Today, they are in limbo, facing anxiety and insecurity about their healthcare coverage.

“The fight is not over,” said Smith. “The ACA is about giving people affordable access to healthcare. Real freedom is not going bankrupt trying to take care of your family when someone gets sick.”

augusta free press
augusta free press