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Nancy Rilling: Amid Supreme Court upheaval, don't forget threat to Obamacare

Nancy Rilling: Amid Supreme Court upheaval, don't forget threat to Obamacare

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It happened to me about 30 years ago. My doctor was being overly cautious, and I had a biopsy. It turned out that I had nothing wrong with me and have never had another biopsy since. Well, one day I lost my job and tried to buy temporary health insurance. I was denied coverage because the insurance companies said that I had a preexisting condition. But nothing was wrong with me. I wasn’t sick, yet I still couldn’t purchase health insurance because I had a benign biopsy. I have friends who couldn’t get coverage either because of hay fever, or because of a therapist appointment after being dumped by a boyfriend, or for having taken a low-dose cholesterol medicine, and on and on. None of these so-called preexisting conditions was serious, but we were all denied coverage anyway.

Luckily, and finally in this country, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which for the first time ever gave all of us access to health care even if we have preexisting conditions. Many pay very low premiums or none at all because of subsidies and Medicaid expansion. And now, after all this time, the federal government has joined 18 state attorneys general, including my home state of Missouri, in filing a lawsuit to end the Affordable Care Act. Why? Did we do something wrong? Why are we no longer deserving of health care protections?

One week after the Nov. 3 election, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments asking the court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act. The consequences could be devastating to all of us. And yes, with the new members of the Supreme Court, it is highly probable that the coverage known as Obamacare could soon cease to exist. However, there are numerous organizations throughout the country that have written legal briefs pleading with the court to save affordable health care. These organizations include dozens of hospital associations, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association and AARP.

With the destruction of the health care act, millions of people would instantly lose health insurance. It would be like taking Medicare away from senior citizens. Elimination of it would also harm those of us with employer coverage and seniors on Medicare. For example, without the health care law, insurance companies would be able to reinstate annual and lifetime coverage limits for employer plans. Parents would no longer be able to carry their children on their health insurance plans until they turn 26 years old.

Even annual wellness exams that we get free of charge on Medicare are available to us courtesy of the health care law. I was shocked when my mother told me that there were no annual wellness exams for Medicare before the Affordable Care Act. People are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs now, but these costs would increase substantially for Medicare beneficiaries if the Affordable Care Act is destroyed because that feared “donut hole” will open up again. Before the act became law, if a person bought an individual health insurance plan and got a serious illness, the insurance company could stop that person’s coverage just when it was needed the most. With the invalidation of the act by the Supreme Court, all of these protections that we now take for granted would be over.

The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for more than 10 years now, and it is firmly entrenched in our health care system. If the law is dissolved, people’s lives would be irreparably harmed. Tearing it down would cause massive disruption, an increase in insurance premiums and elimination of protections for all Americans. Many people don’t seem to care one way or the other because they think they’ll never get sick, but when they do, sooner or later, it would be a different story for them. If there was a better health care plan that Congress could agree on, they would have introduced it by now. No replacement has been forthcoming in the past 10 years. Until Congress can agree on an improved plan, why not just leave this one in place?

Nancy Rilling is a retired lawyer and high school English teacher who was born in St. Louis and went to Ladue High School. She now lives in Houston.

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