The survival of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court presents a monumental moment to improve the U.S. health care system, says Elizabeth Sepper, JD, health law expert and associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis.
“It is a uniquely American crisis that 50 million Americans don’t have health insurance and another 29 million are underinsured, meaning getting sick would ruin them financially even though they’ve been paying for insurance,” she says.
“The Affordable Care Act helps address this national disaster. Now that the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, tens of millions of Americans should gain access to health insurance in 2014. Political posturing aside, every American who has been insured, gone uninsured, or suffered serious illness — that is to say, all Americans — should see benefits from the Affordable Care Act over the next few years.”
Sepper says the country has not yet experienced all of the big improvements in access to health care that the Affordable Care Act will bring about in 2014.
“It is important to note though that in Missouri, almost a million-and-a-half people have already received preventive care without co-pays,” she says.
“Forty-thousand young people gained health insurance through their parents’ plans. Insurance companies that haven’t met the new law’s requirements will be sending Missouri consumers $60 million in rebates. And, for those of us who are insured, health plans can’t cancel our coverage and leave us to pick up the bills once we get sick.”
Sepper notes that litigation around new health benefits is not over.
“Just last month, Catholic organizations filed a wave of legal challenges to new rules that ensure that employees have insurance coverage for contraception if their employer offers a health plan,” she says.
“These suits turn religious freedom on its head. The contraception coverage rule respects women’s and men’s moral and religious decisions about their own reproductive health. It also lifts a weighty financial burden from women and their families.
“The next test for the Affordable Care Act will come in the November elections. It’s no secret that, if elected, Mitt Romney plans to derail reforms that promise access to health care for tens of millions of Americans.
“Ultimately, health care reform poses a moral, not just a political, question,” she says.
“Will we as a country return to a dysfunctional system characterized by unnecessary deaths, illnesses and bankruptcies? Or will we keep our commitment to advance toward the moral imperative of health care for all?”