It’s Black History Month and as you’re reading these words, more than 7 million Americans have purchased health insurance, in recent weeks, as the deadline to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was set to expire on Sunday, February 15.
Several Presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have tried to enact national, affordable health care insurance. Our nation’s first African American President got it done.
African Americans’ enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, the law commonly referred to as Obamacare, has already survived one challenge brought against it before the U. S. Supreme Court. So, with almost 20 million Americans having already purchased health insurance under the ACA, that should mean ‘case closed,’ right?
Despite the law’s enactment and repeated attempts by the Republican right to weaken or eliminate Obamacare all together, well funded interests on the extremist right have yet another chance next month, on March 4, in oral arguments before the U. S. Supreme Court to realize their dreams.
In the coming weeks, Americans will see a growing number of news reports about conservatives’ latest appeal to the nation’s high court. The political jockeying that will play itself out in the media may be enlightening or, even, amusing to some. But this is no joke. For the extremist right, getting rid of or, at least, gutting Obamacare remains their top organizing imperative.
This month, on February 3, the Republican-led House voted for the 67th time to eviscerate the law. The vote was 239 to 186. That vote included all but three House Republicans. But, hey, don’t knock it, because that vote, for the first time, at least included some “no” votes among House Republicans.
Do those three votes mark the beginning of a political sea change for the Republican Party? Probably not.
However, given its current leadership and the antipathy that still fuels its Tea Party members, leaders of the national Republican Party are duty bound to appear as if they’re towing the party line of its extremist right. That faction, led by high profile members in the U. S. House and Senate, are already sowing political fear and dred into the hearts of some of their wannabe presidential candidates. A recent report in Politico led with the banner headline, “They’re back! The new Tea Party surge.” Priority one for the Tea Party crowd is the complete elimination of the Affordable Care Act.
To millions of Americans, this is not a game. This affects their quality of life. But a case that will soon be argued before the U. S. Supreme Court, if it prevails, will gut or, perhaps, outright eliminate this life affirming legislation.
Millions of Americans of all races, classes and, yes, in both political parties have come to rely on the benefits of Obamacare. The more they benefit from this vital resource, the less inclined they are to be forced to live without it.
There are several, ‘must read’ reports on this subject. Legal analysts in the The New York Times and The New Yorker outline their thinking and some of the political strategies afoot by those seeking to quash the law. The Times’ Linda Greenhouse reports on the scenario that may ensue if the political right has its way, “…If the Supreme Court agrees with the challengers, more than seven million people who bought their insurance in the 34 states where the federal government set up the marketplaces, known as exchanges, will lose their tax subsidies. The market for affordable individual health insurance will collapse in the face of shrinking numbers of insured people and skyrocketing premiums, the very “death spiral” that the Affordable Care Act was designed to prevent…While I’m plenty disturbed by the defeatism that pervades the progressive community…before you give up, read the briefs. Having read them, I’m beginning to think for the first time that the government may actually prevail.”
In a report posted on the Department of Health and Human Services’ website, “By the Numbers: Open Enrollment for Health Insurance,” consider these facts:
- 10 million – the number of Americans who’ve made getting health care a priority and signed up for, or been automatically renewed for, 2015 marketplace coverage
- $268 – the average monthly tax credit for people who qualify for financial assistance in the 37 states using HealthCare.gov through January 30.
- 40 – the average number of plans consumers can choose from this year
- 1.86 million – the largest number of users on the HealthCare.gov website
If the plaintiffs win, rampant confusion would ensue in millions of households as the health insurance policies they’d purchased with a level of confidence are, at best, likely to come into question or, worse, be deemed null and void. Either scenario would be chaotic for low-income populations and those with pre-existing conditions. This would be especially devastating on low-income, African American communities. The national Republican party’s near lock step opposition to Obamacare has already prevented thousands of low-income African American families and other vulnerable populations from benefitting from the health care benefits in the ACA. Leading scholars and policy organizations have already begun to document the vulnerable populations, businesses and others that would be harmed if the law’s critics prevail.
The leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus has been front and center, both in helping to enact the Affordable Care Act and working to thwart conservative efforts to eviscerate it. Chief among them are U. S. Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13).
In response to conservatives’ latest attempts to obliterate Obamacare, Congresswoman Lee said, “I had the honor of leading the Congressional Black Caucus during the debate and passage of the Affordable Care Act. I worked with my CBC colleagues to ensure greater access to affordable, quality healthcare for African Americans. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we have seen a seven percent decline in the number of uninsured African Americans and more Americans now have access to affordable, quality healthcare.
“Tragically, conservatives continue their misguided attempts to repeal this important law that makes Americans healthier. I hope the Supreme Court does not rule to take away healthcare subsidies from hard working Americans, which will devastate 70 percent of African Americans who are currently receiving a healthcare subsidy.
“The Supreme Court should not play politics with people’s health.”
From her lips to God’s ears. Stay tuned.
# # #