In February, 20 state attorneys general, including Florida’s, filed suit in federal court arguing that the individual mandate was essentially repealed in the Tax Cuts and Job Act (even though it only eliminates the penalty). The administration’s refusal to defend the ACA protections may result in higher premiums and open the door to a return of the days where millions more Americans lived in a constant state of physical and financial vulnerability.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued that with the repeal of the penalty, the ACA guaranteed issue and community rating protections are also no longer valid.
Guaranteed issue provides that an insurance company must insure people with preexisting conditions.
Community rating provides that insurance companies cannot charge you more based on age, gender, health status or other factors.
Legal arguments aside, we must consider what these protections have meant for average Floridians. Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Lynn B. from Jacksonville was on COBRA and paid a $600 monthly premium. She applied for individual health insurance plans but kept being denied due to her preexisting conditions, such as diabetes and a history of cancer. Lynn recalls that “just as COBRA was about to expire, the ACA became law and saved me with a premium payment per month of about one fourth of what I was paying under COBRA.”
The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. Lynn notes that her ACA premiums have crept up since its inception and she now pays $450 per month with an annual deductible of $6,500. However, lost in the partisan finger pointing is the opportunity to consider the experiences of Lynn and millions like her to strengthen our nation’s health care system.
This underhanded repeal of the ACA continues to undermine the protections that ensured care for so many Americans. A return to the pre-ACA days will push older, middle class Floridians, who do not qualify for tax credits under the law, into a more precarious, expensive health care system, where medical bankruptcy ticks up like a bad fashion trend.
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