Concern over ACA ruling grows as appeal on pause

Many Americans with disabilities and pre-existing conditions are concerned about their future if a ruling that overturns the Affordable Care Act remains in place.

The ruling stems from a Republican-launched lawsuit to overturn the healthcare law known as Obamacare by declaring it unconstitutional. In December, a federal judge in Texas agreed the law was unconstitutional, potentially throwing the American healthcare system into disarray.

While the ACA will remain in place while the case goes through an appeals process fronted by a coalition of Democrats, Americans are worried over the final outcome. According to a report from ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), more than 15 million people could lose healthcare coverage on the individual market alone if the ACA is overturned and health insurance providers are no longer required to cover pre-existing conditions.

Of Americans with disabilities and pre-existing conditions, 84 percent fear health insurance companies will discriminate against them without the ACA, according to a January survey from The Mighty––a social media platform for patients and families diagnosed with diseases or health disorders.

Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of the 2,700 survey respondents––94 percent––said they wouldn’t be able to afford treatment for their condition or treatment of a loved one without health insurance.

When asked which political party would do a better job protecting health insurance, 75 percent of The Mighty respondents said Democrats over Republicans. Still, 93 percent said they did not trust the government to protect their health insurance.

National impact

The survey underscores the broader impacts of the ruling, which could create chaos across the U.S. healthcare system if it stands.

Currently, the case is on pause while the government remains partially shutdown due to a funding lapse. The government officially shut down Dec. 22, 2018, after lawmakers and President Trump couldn’t come to a funding agreement.

“If the ruling stands, it would eliminate many universally popular parts of the ACA, including provisions allowing parents to keep their children on their plans until age 26, guaranteed coverage for essential health benefits, and coverage protections for people with pre-existing health conditions––something Republicans said repeatedly during the midterms would not be removed,” Michael Strazzella, of the law firm and lobbying group Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, told HealthExec. “Simply put––it would completely transform healthcare as we know it for consumers, healthcare providers, insurers, suppliers, technology providers and much more.”

The Trump administration has already taken several steps to circumvent and weaken the healthcare law, including expanding non-Obamacare short-term, limited-duration health plans and cutting marketing for the individual health exchange.

Political plays

While the healthcare law won’t be totally dismantled as the case plays out in the courts, there are still deep political implications that could further weaken the ACA, according to Strazzella. Just as President Trump has used the government shutdown as a political ploy to gain more than $5 billion in funding for his border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he could potentially leverage the court case to enhance healthcare law compromises with Democrats.

“President Donald Trump could use the decision as a way to force Democrats to come to the table again to rework the country’s healthcare law,” Strazzella told HealthExec. “If Democrats rebuff the move, Republicans could use it as a tool to say that the left refuses to make any meaningful change or improvement to healthcare.”

The ACA is likely to be a point of contention between the two parties regardless of the lawsuit at a time when progressive Democrats are pushing for universal healthcare.