Voices of Everyday Leaders

by Willie Francois | March 6, 2019 7:41 pm

New Attacks on Healthcare from the Right are Wrong

No one should have to choose between paying medical costs and exhibiting grandparental love when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created new life-affirming economic possibilities for us for the last eight years. My grandfather loves to spoil my two nieces, his great-granddaughters, with multifarious, material gifts. I imagine they live under the same delusion my sister and I lived under when we were children—”Papa is rich.” At ages nine and two respectively, my nieces relish in the expectation of something special delivered to them in the car as my grandfather routinely picks them up from school as my sister and mother close out their work days. Excitement wells up in the mind of my older niece with each passing day. However, the latest ruling on ACA in north Texas could severely restrict the finances of my cancer-surviving, hypertensive grandfather. If the ACA is unconstitutional, my grandfather, 76, could lose coverage and be headed for a future in poverty, at worst, and no disposable income for gifts his great-granddaughters, at best.  All of us—regardless of our income levels and race—deserve access to affordable, quality healthcare.

December 2017, Congress passed a tax bill intended to crowd the coffers of corporations and impair the stability of the ACA by decreasing the penalty for the law’s individual mandate to zero dollars. One year later, Judge Reed O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee to the Federal District Court in Fort Worth, ruled the ACA unconstitutional, essentially imperiling the future of health outcomes in America. The federal jurist ruled the elimination of the individual mandate unconstitutional, therefore invalidating the entirety of the ACA.

The political leadership of the right and conservative judiciary prioritize an alternative vision for 2019—undoing the ACA ultimately ripping a fundamental component of the safety net from under the economic feet of millions of Americans. If the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Judge O’Connor’s ruling, roughly 17 million Americans will lose their health insurance, which includes millions who gained coverage through the law’s expansion of Medicaid and millions more who receive subsidized private insurance through the law’s online marketplaces. My grandfather belongs to the gratefully protected 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. He is one of 20 million Americans who rely on the law’s consumer protections from annual or lifetime spending caps.

The more than 70 attempts to gut the ACA by lawmakers and Judge O’Connor’s decision notwithstanding, the majority of Americans value healthcare protects of the ACA as life-sustaining, poverty-breaking assets to our society. According to The Kaiser Family Foundation in November, the healthcare law enjoyed a 53% overall favorability rating, a 13-point difference from those who opposed it. Notably, 54% of people negotiating our economy on less than $40,000 a year as household favor the protections of the Obama-era law.

To whom or what are jurists like O’Connor accountable—real people with financially destabilizing health conditions and limited economic protections or narrow ideological readings of the constitution and partisan alibis? Systemically enforced health disparities deform and imperfects the integrity of our union.

As a result of $1.9 trillion corporate welfare in Tax Reform and Jobs Act of 2017, the right-wing-monopolized Washington, in 2018, majored in proposing scores of laws rooted in draconian cuts to federal anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and SNAP, and continue to strategize administrative tactics to limit access for American families to housing assistance, healthcare, childcare programs, and additional programs feverishly needed and mired in bureaucracy.

Judge O’Connor’s ruling aids and abets Congress’ myopic insistence on instantiating and protecting America’s healthcare apartheid.  Seemingly, the conservative federal legislature and judiciary believe the time ripe to take socially, disinherit systemically, marginalize structurally, and cheat economically. The working and middle-class families of the wealthiest nation in human history stand to lose a great deal as a result of Judge O’Connor’s incompassionate conservativism.

This year hardworking, freedom-minded Americans must condemn any organized conspiracy against the ACA that damns, strangles and cripples Americans. The legal efforts of 20 states to end ACA and decision of Judge O’Connor deny justice, enforces poverty, epitomize ignorance and exaggerate class stratification. In a word, none of us are safe in this era of juridical terrorism.

The systematic denial of healthcare access to every citizen and resident in our republic bolsters American medical apartheid—the gross racial disparities in health outcomes targeted by the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare.  This accents reasons why three in four Black people and nearly two-thirds of the Latinx community support the ACA. An inconvenient truth that haunts many non-white lives and low-income households, US healthcare and legislative institutions see them as disposable, ignorable and terminable. Our failure to insure all people within our shores makes poverty terminal, stigmatizes certain illnesses and further disinherits hardworking families. In a nation of opulent consumerism and inequitable distribution of resources, we live under the moral weight, a transformative burden, to ensure poverty, immigration status and non-whiteness are not death sentences.

We dangle healthcare in the faces of the sick and people on fixed incomes—people like my grandfather—as if it were a privilege for the financially deserving few instead of universal human right. The ACA protects the rights of ordinary, socioeconomically contributive Americans to live without the melancholic pressure to decide between healthcare and food; healthcare and housing; healthcare and the joys of making grandchildren smile.

Ultimately, the moral and physical health of the nation may hinge on how the Supreme Court rules on this decision. We cannot afford to live in an America without the ACA or a health law decisively more expansive like a single-payer program. Marshaled through a partisan Congress, President Obama signed the ACA into law as merely the first installment toward ending healthcare apartheid and discernible progress toward universal coverage.

If a just and equitable economy is possible, it can only be realized by unfastening the grip the super-rich and corporate America have on the democratic organs of our nation. Strong healthcare protections disallow the nation’s wealthiest classes—people who accumulated wealth from the labor of working people of all hues—to remain the healthiest in America. We need to protect and expand the provisions of the ACA. That is what America wants—categorically needs— this year and every hereafter—the security of the Affordable Care Act.

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