In the middle of a pandemic, Trump threatens health care for millions of Americans

It was bad enough that the Trump administration failed miserably in its response to the coronavirus pandemic, ignoring the science and failing to come up with a national strategy.

It was pathetic and tragic when Republicans in Congress failed to summon the courage to support the everyday heroes who saved our communities by funding the front lines.

But the pain and suffering that families, workers and individuals across this country have endured for most of this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic may yet get worse. And that is because the Trump administration may succeed in its nearly four-year effort to take away health care from millions of Americans – precisely at the time when they need it most.

In California v. Texas, a case argued before the Supreme Court today, 18 states’ attorneys general, with support from the Trump administration, challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the landmark health care law that has made it possible for millions of Americans to gain health insurance coverage.

Nineteen states, the District of Columbia and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear are trying to protect the ACA. AFSCME and 76 other organizations have signed on to a “friend of the court” brief filed by the National Women’s Law Center in support of preserving the ACA.

“For more than a decade, wealthy special interests and right-wing politicians have tried every way possible to destroy the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement. “Each time, most recently in last week’s election, people across the country have affirmed their support for this groundbreaking law, which has given millions of families security and peace of mind.”

If the Trump administration and its state allies succeed in their effort, the consequences over the next two years would be disastrous. According to AFSCME’s statement:

  • 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions – 17 million of them children – would lose their protections and be left at the mercy of insurance companies;
  • Some 21 million people nationwide would lose their health insurance.

According to the nonpartisan Urban Institute:

  • Some 9 million people would lose income-related subsidies for marketplace insurance;
  • Coverage for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program would decline by some 15 million people;
  • The consequences will be felt more strongly among states that experienced the largest coverage gains under the ACA
  • Striking down the ACA will affect people of all races and ethnicities, and of every age group. Among children under 18, some 1.7 million more will become uninsured, an increase of 48%.

“If the Supreme Court overturns the ACA, we will see higher prescription drug prices and a likely end to Medicaid expansion,” Saunders warned. “It would eliminate 100% coverage for basic preventive services like vaccinations and cancer screenings. It would mean a return of annual caps and lifetime limits.”

AFSCME played a key role in supporting passage of the ACA a decade ago, and we have defended it through every attack it has endured, including an early one in 2012 that almost brought it down. AFSCME believes that affordable health care is a right, not a privilege, and that every American should have access to it.

But with the Supreme Court now at its most conservative point since 1950, given the recent addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Trump administration has one last realistic shot to undo President Barack Obama’s most important legislative achievement.

“The ACA has saved countless lives. It’s as simple as that,” Saunders said. “But no matter what any court decides, AFSCME will continue the fight to strengthen the ACA and give more people access to the medical care they need.”