Editorial: Supreme Court decision on ACA looms large

The Editorial Advisory Board
U.S. Supreme Court

Thousands of Kansans are unemployed as a result of the economic collapse wrought by the coronavirus. This staggering job loss means more Kansans than ever need the insurance coverage available through the Affordable Care Act since they’re losing their employer-based health care coverage.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt is advocating the U.S. Supreme Court end the ACA. Schmidt has said his philosophy is to defend the laws passed by the Kansas Legislature regardless of whether he agrees with them.

There was outrage when the bill was passed and few knew what was in it. A decade later, we know the benefits and thousands of Kansans have health insurance today because of it. No doubt, it’s not a perfect bill and certainly Congress could act on reforms to improve it, but instead, we’re still battling its worth.

Let’s talk about those benefits.

Most notably, the Affordable Care Act ensures the coverage of pre-existing conditions. If you lose your job and sign up for insurance through the ACA, you won’t pay more (or be denied) because you’re a diabetic, had a recent knee replacement or recovered from cancer a decade ago.

That wasn’t true before the ACA passed.

Passage of the ACA also established minimum guidelines for insurance coverage, referred to as essential benefits. Today your health insurance plan includes coverage options for mental health services, pregnancy care, ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, rehabilitative services, laboratory work, pediatric care with oral health and vision, as well as birth control and breastfeeding coverage.

Additionally, the ACA gives parents the option to carry their children on their insurance plans until age 26.

It’s not a perfect system but it has been a stark improvement to the insurance options available prior to the Act’s passage. Why end it? Why not work to improve the plan? We now have a decade worth of data to inform policymakers as they consider improvements. But that’s not happening.

The federal lawsuit would end the ACA with no concrete plan detailing what the country would do in its stead. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Sunday there’s no plan in place if the Supreme Court ends the program. “The exact details will be dependent on the — frankly, the composition of Congress if and when the Supreme Court does strike down …”

Ending the ACA is a bad idea at any time though it’s especially egregious during a pandemic when thousands of Kansans are being laid off and losing their employer-based health insurance. Rather than using taxpayer money to argue ending the program, let’s implement ideas for improving our health care system.