This week, the Department of Justice announced that it is calling for the entire Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to be struck down in an ongoing court case. The Justice Department is siding with a ruling from U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who said last December that the entire law is unconstitutional because the 2017 tax law overturned the ACA’s individual mandate. Previously, their position was that the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions were unconstitutional.
Most legal scholars agree that the legal argument for repealing the entire ACA is weak at best, and that the ACA is likely to remain the law of the land.
Still, just the threat is enough to make you consider what the ACA means to Floridians. Last week, in Miami, Congresswoman Donna Shalala joined health care advocates and local leaders to celebrate the 9-year anniversary of the ACA. Since 2010, health insurers can no longer charge women more than men, or impose high costs that effectively block people with pre-existing conditions from accessing care, and over 1.7 million Floridians are currently enrolled in the ACA Marketplace. In fact, 4 of the top 10 counties in enrollment in the country are in Florida.
The March 22 press conference at the Coconut Grove Health Center in Miami was hosted by For our Future, Florida Voices for Health, the Florida Health Justice Project, Epilepsy Florida, and Community Health of South Florida, Inc.
Here’s what Floridians had to say:
Benito Cruz - Miami Resident and ACA enrollee:
“I was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago. I didn't have health care; I had lost a job after 20-something years and COBRA was just way too expensive. And when I tried to get insurance privately, it was just unaffordable. Fortunately, I was able to call a number and find a navigator. It was just life changing. I was able to get health care and not just for myself but for my daughter. It's made the difference. I'm here, I'm being treated, I'm alive...It's not over yet, but I'm there. And it would not have been possible without the Affordable Care Act.”
Laurie Scop - Miami resident with pre-existing condition:
“In 2001, I was diagnosed with a severe neurological disease that left me bedridden, disabled and residing in a nursing home as a young woman, unexpected to recover. By 2009, I was fully recovered, and I returned to the workforce at the height of the economic downturn in the US. I was starting over alone, working 10-14 hour days, and denied an alternate affordable insurance plan. Therefore, I went without an adequate amount of food in order to keep the expensive commercial plan I had, hoping my employment status would become permanent soon and I would receive benefits. After nearly six months of work, I weighed 98lbs, and I remained a temporary employee. I could no longer survive and afford my private plan which left me uninsured, but it was too late. One afternoon, I was found unconscious in my office. I woke up in the hospital, uninsured for the first time in my life, with a substantial amount of medical debt. Shortly after I returned to work, I was laid off, unable to qualify for unemployment compensation, ineligible for Medicaid and unable to afford outpatient care. I am alive to tell my story whereas others are not. Every day, Floridians die due to the inability to access ongoing outpatient care.”
Congresswoman Donna Shalala:
“Every once in a while, this nation takes giant steps to create safety nets for people in our country. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA. The ACA was a giant step. 100,000 people in my district are registered for the ACA. That is the largest registration of any congressional district in the country. And guess what? The ACA is here to stay.”
Matt Childers, Florida Health Justice Project:
“The ACA has benefited millions of people, but there's still so much more work to do. We still have hundreds of thousands of people in the state of Florida who don't have access to affordable health care. Because even though they don't make a lot of money, our Medicaid program is so restrictive that they actually make too much money to be on [Medicaid]. If we were to expand Medicaid up to 138% of the federal poverty level, we can guarantee access to healthcare for hundreds of thousands of people.”
It’s time to stand up for the millions of Floridians and Americans relying on coverage through the ACA Marketplace. Join this sign-on letter to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and share your story in support of removing Florida from the Texas v Azar lawsuit.