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.
“How can you tell people of your country that you’re against their health?” said owner of Retirement Aspirations Greg Hankins.
Hankins recalled injuring his back during a two-year stay in India. His X-rays cost 200 Indian rupees, which is equivalent to almost $4.
“That’s only because I wanted copies of my X-rays,” Hankins said. “And they call India a third-world country. What does that say about us?”
But some who oppose the bill aren’t concerned about affordability. Cheryl Rehman, an co-captain of the Stand Up for Religious Freedom rally, will be required to pay for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
“This is the first time in American history that government has tried to define what makes a religious institution religious enough to be allowed that exemption,” Rehman said. “It’s been understood, since the time of the Catholic Church, that birth control has been taught to be wrong, and so the Catholic Church wants to be able to not have to be forced to pay for the contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. When the government says, ‘I don’t care how you practice your faith, you are forced to do this,’ well, that’s clearly government intrusion.”
For this reason, Rehman said the plan is unconstitutional. She added that while she had no problem with contraception drugs being available, the Catholic Church shouldn’t be told to pay for birth control.
Meanwhile, Lembo said people have to respect the process of the plan coming down to the Supreme Court, although it has been implemented for two years now.
“I haven’t spoken to the president about this, but being a constitutional scholar, he understands that this is part of the process,” Lembo said. “Is it unfortunate? Yes. Is it unfair? I don’t think so.”