Supreme Court's ruling on health care set to affect thousands

JA'PHETH TOULSON Special to the AmNews | 6/28/2012, 3:12 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court is holding a life or death vote on Wednesday for 3.1 million young Americans, 4 million seniors, 280,000 small businesses and 19 percent of Black Americans.

By press time, the Supreme Court had yet to rule on the Affordable Care Act, but it is apparent that the act has the potential to affect many in the Black community.

"It's sort of ironic that one of the main reasons why the individual mandate is in the plan to begin with is that the existing insurance carriers said they cannot afford to provide coverage to all people without pre-existing conditions exclusions unless everyone was in the pool," said Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo. "And they convinced...the White House that that was the case, so then that became a provision...The irony is that that could be the provision that puts the whole law in jeopardy."

The Affordable Care Act, enacted by President Barack Obama two years ago, allows 3.1 million young Americans to stay on their family's coverage until age 26. According to a press briefing from the Community Service Society, more than 160,000 young adults in New York have gained insurance through their parents' plans.

The law also provides access to affordable health coverage, which is especially important for African-Americans. In 2008, 19 percent of African-Americans were uninsured compared to a national average for all racial and ethnic groups of 15 percent and 11 percent for non-Hispanic whites. In addition, the cost of insurance for small businesses will be dropped between 5 to 22 percent if the law is upheld. Small businesses will get tax credits to help pay for up to 50 percent of health insurance costs for their employees, a mandate Bagel Grove owner Matt Grove appreciates.

Grove said he was able to cover $5,000 worth of tax credits alone as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act, which allowed him to supply health benefits to his employees. However, if the Supreme Court decides to strike the mandate down, Grove's business may struggle. He, along with 280,000 other small businesses, will lose access to tax credits.

"It would probably immediately cause us to cover a lot less in terms of health insurance or maybe even stop covering health insurance all together because it's just going to be too expensive. The Affordable Care Act went a long way toward helping small businesses like ours to make it more affordable for us," Grove said. "If you take that away, it makes it a lot harder to offer health insurance." Grove emphasized that the Affordable Care Act allowed him to offer higher pensions and maintain low turnover rates.

According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), nearly 4 million seniors received rebate checks last year to help them pay for the cost of their prescription drugs. In 2011, seniors who hit the "donut hole" in 2011 are eligible for a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generics. CMS estimates that, nationwide, 271,000 seniors have already benefited from this discount for a total savings of $166 million.