A U.S. appeals court last month declined to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, which has already been wounded by a decade of Republican undermining. By keeping what's left of Obamacare alive, the court has granted a reprieve for the patients who rely on it.
But make no mistake: Millions of Americans with preexisting medical conditions are still threatened by the GOP's continued campaign of destruction.
Former President Barack Obama's signature policy was an imperfect solution to America's health care crisis, but it addressed the key issue of preexisting medical conditions. Those with such conditions used to routinely be denied health insurance or could get it only at exorbitant rates.
To help insurance companies survive Obamacare's money-losing requirement that they accept those patients, the program mandated that all Americans must buy health insurance, thus guaranteeing a large enough pool of healthy buyers to make it all work. A U.S. appeals panel struck down that mandate last month, ruling in a pending national lawsuit by Republican officials seeking to end the entire program.
Since the mandate had already been effectively removed by a Republican Congress, that part of the ruling has no practical impact. More important is that the court declined to invalidate the entire law, as plaintiffs were seeking, and instead sent it back to the lower courts for additional analysis. Which means some 20 million Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act can stay insured for now. But they are still one ruling away from having to choose between forgoing medical care or going bankrupt.
The lawsuit was brought by 18 Republican state attorneys general — including Missouri's Josh Hawley, now the state's junior U.S. senator — in an attempt to get the courts to do what a Republican-controlled Congress was unable to, and destroy Obamacare. So much for the GOP's supposed disdain for legislating from the bench. The plaintiffs offer no realistic suggestion as to how preexisting conditions would be covered without Obamacare.
With this suit, Republicans risk becoming that unfortunate dog who, after years of chasing cars, finally catches one. What, exactly, is the GOP going to tell those millions of Americans who, if the suit succeeds, would once again be forced to choose between poor health and poverty?
The philosophical underpinning of this malignant lawsuit is that health care is not a right but a commodity like any other. And if you can't afford it, that's life. Whether Republicans say it or not, voters next year should view that as an overarching GOP campaign slogan, and vote accordingly.
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