By Ethan Rome – Executive Director, Health Care for America Now
Fidelity Investments, the gigantic Wall Street mutual fund company, says it will cost a retired couple $20,000 more to buy their medicines if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act.
Driven by extremist partisan politics, the Republicans have been working hard to impoverish seniors with crushing medical costs. Will the Court go along? Will the Justices take away the Medicare prescription drug discounts, free preventive care and other savings that allow seniors to take all the medicines they need to stay healthy while making ends meet? There are 48 million Americans counting on Medicare. Will the Republicans and Chief Justice John Roberts pull the rug out from under them?
It’s not just seniors who will be hurt. Millions of Americans with private insurance are already benefiting from the consumer protections in Obamacare, and many more will take effect in 2014. But the Republicans don’t care. That should probably be the name of their health care plan — “Don’t Care” — because they’ve been obsessed with repealing Obamacare without ever offering a serious proposal for a replacement health program. They’re treating this like a political game, without bothering to consider the people affected.
Republicans in Congress and Mitt Romney, the super-rich presumptive GOP presidential nominee, just don’t get the fact that $20,000 is a lot of money for America’s working and middle-class families. On Tuesday night Senate Republicans made that clear by blocking consideration of a Democratic bill to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling. The legislation is in limbo less than two months before interest rates are set to skyrocket. They just don’t care that for students and families every dollar makes a huge difference – for some it could put college out of reach altogether.
To most people, $20,000 is a very big deal. After all, Medicare folks have a median income of only $21,000 a year. That’s why Obamacare is such a lifeline. For retirees, it’s not about “health care reform” or politics or complicated legal issues or endless cable television blather about who’s up and who’s down. It’s about real money that has a real impact on their standard of living. All told, Obamacare has saved more than 5.1 million seniors $3.4 billion in prescription drug costs, and we’ve only taken the first few steps toward closing the prescription drug donut hole.
The Republicans shouldn’t be trying to take away $20,000 from millions of retirees. Neither should the Court, especially since the law is clearly constitutional, according to a growing number of conservative legal scholars and judges appointed by Republicans.
The Supreme Court should uphold the Affordable Care Act not only because it’s constitutional, but because to do otherwise would whipsaw millions of America’s seniors, families and small businesses by revoking substantial consumer protections and benefits.
Now, you can add the 48 million enrollees in Medicare to that list. For retirees who have spent their lives building this country and investing in Medicare, $20,000 hangs in the balance.