By Ethan Rome – Executive Director, Health Care for America Now
The radical Republicans have been waiting years for this day. They’ve managed to get the very idea of government argued before the Supreme Court. It’s part of their effort to tear down President Obama and the new health care law and take away benefits and consumer protections that are already changing the lives of millions of Americans.
On Monday the Supreme Court begins three days of oral arguments about Obamacare leading up to what may be among the most consequential high court decisions in 100 years. Among the legal issues are the limits on Congress’s authority to regulate economic matters, including the health insurance market (which represents 17% of the economy), and whether Congress can put conditions on the money it gives to states, like the health law’s provision expanding Medicaid eligibility so more low-income families can get health care.
The court’s decision could limit the ability of Congress to act in any meaningful way to address the full range of national problems with national solutions. These broader issues are embedded within the question of whether we want to give our health care back to the insurance companies. The Republicans, who released a proposed budget last week that would decimate Medicaid and end Medicare as we know it to give millionaires and billionaires an average tax break of $150,000, say yes. They want to put the insurance companies back in the driver’s seat.
The GOP and their corporate sponsors have been opposed to this law from day one. Despite the “repeal and replace” mantra, the Republicans in Congress have yet to offer an alternative. The only thing they’re “for” is being against Obamacare and the good things it does and the people it’s already helping.
One of those people is Spike Dolomite Ward, who learned about Obamacare when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She was uninsured and had no way to pay for life-saving treatments. She was out of options until she learned about the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan established by Obamacare. It’s not a government handout. She pays a monthly premium like any other health insurance customer. But now she’s getting medical care that she would not be able to afford – and that insurance companies would refuse to sell her – without the new law.
Spike first told her story in the Los Angeles Times and you can see her in a new video. She has come to Washington, D.C., this week to talk about how Obamacare is literally saving her life. She’ll be joined by other seniors, women, and families who are speaking up to make sure the voices of regular people don’t get lost in the legal and political noise of this case and the chants against the law by the throngs of opponents who are sure to crowd the court.
The stories of Spike and others are about how Obamacare is bringing health security and peace of mind to millions of Americans. Just last week the Department of Health and Human Services announced that 5 million seniors have saved $3.2 billion in prescription drug costs. That’s a big deal for people on fixed incomes, and it’s a benefit that would be taken away if the Republicans get their way and get rid of the law.
Thanks to Obamacare, 2.5 million young adults are getting coverage because they can stay on their parents’ insurance plans. Preventive health services are now provided without a co-pay in all new insurance plans. The days of lifetime limits on coverage are over. Small businesses have access to job-creating tax credits to purchase insurance for their workers. Insurance companies can no longer jack up our rates whenever they please, and they have to give consumers rebates if they spend too much of our premium dollars on administration, profits and bloated CEO salaries.
The argument this week at the Supreme Court is about more than one law. It’s about what kind of country we want to live in. Do we want a government that brings us together to achieve things we can’t do on our own, or do we want everyone to fend for themselves at the mercy of the so-called free market?
Mary Brown was a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the health care law, a challenge that argues Obamacare goes too far and the free market works just fine. Sadly, since the lawsuit was filed, the small business owned by Mary and her husband has failed and they’ve declared bankruptcy, in part because of medical bills. The Browns’ story demonstrates what it looks like to have the freedom to go bankrupt because of health care. That’s what Obamacare will change. Once it’s fully implemented in 2014, people like the Browns won’t get crushed by health care costs because they’ll have affordable insurance, even if they don’t like the law.
So the Browns and Spike Dolomite Ward have something in common — they both need Obamacare. We all do.