DANVILLE — Monday will mark the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, and Piedmont Access to Health Services Inc. will celebrate the milestone at its Main Street site in Danville.
Mayor Sherman Saunders will be on hand to mark the event and work PATHS has done in signing up local folks into insurance exchanges.
Patients, staff, and Virginia Organizing will be on hand to celebrate and provide information about the Affordable Care Act.
Five years ago, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law.
“The law was groundbreaking because for the first time in our history, most Americans would have access to health care insurance through either a private marketplace or Medicaid,” said Kay Crane, executive director of PATHS.
In 2012, the law was challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Commentators speculated for months that the court might strike down all or part of the law, particularly the individual mandate that requires every person to have health insurance if they meet certain income criteria.
If the mandate were struck down, opponents of the Affordable Care Act believed the law would not survive.
The mandate and most of the law survived, but the court surprised everyone by ruling that the federal government could not force states to expand Medicaid by withholding current funding if states did not comply. T
This made Medicaid expansion optional and began a whole new battle.
The Affordable Care Act was written to provide subsidies or tax credits to people between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line.
Medicaid expansion would cover individuals and families up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line.
“Because we have not expanded Medicaid in the commonwealth, hard-working, taxpaying Virginians are funding a federal program that they cannot access and being denied the health care they need,” Crane said.
“We’re losing money in Virginia because opponents of the Affordable Care Act are choosing to make a political point instead of making sure constituents are covered.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a new challenge to the law.
In King v. Burwell, plaintiffs argued that the Internal Revenue Service illegally applied tax credits for people in states that participated in the federal health insurance marketplace.
Because of the subsidies, some of the plaintiffs had to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty for failing to do so since the tax subsidy disqualified them from exemption.
“It’s a complicated argument that ignores the facts and history of the law,” Crane said. “Republicans, Democrats, and the Congressional Budget Office all agreed that the subsidies would be applied to everyone, whether they were under a state-run marketplace or the federal one.”
This newest challenge to the law has the potential to rob nearly 385,000 Virginians, and more than 8 million Americans of their health insurance coverage, the PATHS director said.
“Despite continued debate about the constitutionality of ‘Obamacare,’ or more appropriately the Affordable Care Act, the reality for uninsured patients at PATHS is a positive one,” Crane said, “the exception being those patients who would qualify for Medicaid if Virginia would expand Medicaid.”
At PATHS there are over 5,000 patients who would qualify for Medicaid if it were to be expanded.
“It is easy to quote numbers, but behind each of these statistics is the face of a mother, father, family member or friend who will go without coverage unless the General Assembly agrees to expand Medicaid,” Crane said.
“While much has been accomplished, as long as there are people who are uninsured, the enrollment and education process will continue,” she said. “Hopefully there will come a day when everyone is covered by an affordable health plan that provides access to quality healthcare.”