Today’s 6-3 Supreme Court ruling in King v. Burwell means that health insurance subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act can and will continue, and it’s an understatement to say that that’s wonderful news.
I cried for several minutes and said a prayer of thanks on receiving this news. With a ruling against the ACA, millions of people nationwide would have lost their subsidies, which for most of them would have meant losing their health insurance. The effect on the insurance market would have been so disastrous that even many conservatives were afraid of a ruling for King. We all know the ACA is imperfect, but the previous status quo was far worse, and now. Whether to love or hate the ACA, this was a necessary and hugely important step for healthcare in America.
But, while this is an enormous victory for the ACA and for the millions getting insurance through it, by no stretch of the imagination is it over. GOP efforts at an ACA replacement continue, and the plans suggested so far would be a big step backwards, bringing back pre-existing conditions and undoing a lot of the good that has been accomplished. The SCOTUS ruling makes repeal and replacement even less likely than ever before. But other obstructions are a much bigger threat, and the people hurt most by them are the people most in need of help. The biggest of these obstructions is several states' refusal to enact Medicaid expansion.
Medicaid expansion is the ACA’s plan to provide coverage to those in the gap between qualifying for traditional Medicaid and for the subsidies. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, over 4 million adults nationwide remain in the gap and are uninsured. These people are not, as Medicaid expansion opponents argue, “lazy people who won’t work”. These are the working poor. People like my aunt, a registered nurse who has become unable to work because of health problems and was recently diagnosed esophageal cancer. She started developing symptoms 9 months ago but was unable to see a doctor, and now her condition is far worse than it would have been if she’d gotten help when she first needed it. These are people like Terinda Furman of Naples, Florida, who has debilitating lupus and can’t work.
21 states have still not expanded Medicaid, though 2 of those are considering alternate plans. One of those states is Utah, where I live. Polls from Dan Jones and Associates show overwhelming public support for Governor Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan, which passed the state senate in March but failed in the state house of representatives. Currently a “gang of six” lawmakers are working on a compromise, while tens of thousands wait without any access to healthcare. Recently the Koch brothers Americans For Prosperity group has decided to get into the Utah debate, sending letters of thanks to the legislators who voted against Healthy Utah. We need to be sure we who support bring healthcare to the poorest among us are making as much noise. We don’t have the money the Koch brothers do, but we have a voice, and a spiritual duty to use it. Millions of God’s children nationwide are still being denied access to healthcare for no reason other than spiteful opposition to our President, and that is morally unacceptable.
As Elder M. Rusell Ballard said in October 1997 General Conference, standing up for “truth and right” is “always the right thing to do. Always.” In 1972, Elder Marion G. Romney spoke of the obligation to care for the poor and needy, stating “We haven’t been giving as much attention to this particular phase of the gospel recently as we once did. Jesus, however, in his teachings, seemed to give it top priority.” There can be no doubt that denying access to healthcare to 4 million people is out of step with the Savior’s teachings. And it is equally out of step for us to know this and not act on it. Sign the petition in support of Healthy Utah today.