As ACA Faces a Supreme Court Challenge, Who Is at Stake?

Published: Friday, March 23rd, 2012

As ACA Faces a Supreme Court Challenge, Who Is at Stake?
by Shivana Jorawar, Reproductive Justice Fellow

March 23, 2012

Today marks two years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law. As it turns two, President Obama’s landmark health care reform will be challenged in the Supreme Court, and health advocates across the country are bracing themselves.
While questions of law remain unanswered, we do know the answer to what is, in my opinion, the most important question—“Who is at stake?”

Next week, as we witness what promises to be a historic Supreme Court case and the media blitz that will follow, we should think foremost of the people whose lives have been and will be improved.

For Asian American and Pacific Islander (API) women, the ACA is a giant leap forward. Like other women, we make less on average than our male counterparts, and are less likely than men to see a doctor because of cost. Moreover, API women are disproportionately reliant on Medicaid or are uninsured; thirty-one percent of Asians and a startling 45 percent of Pacific Islanders fall into this category, compared to just 26 percent of Caucasians.

Thanks to health care reform, more API women than ever before can take advantage of basic medical services for themselves and their families. In 2011, 2.7 million APIs became eligible for free preventive services, which starting in August will include mammograms, well-woman visits, well-child visits, flu shots, and birth control. More than half a million APIs have already used this coverage.

If the ACA survives constitutional challenges, the year 2014 will bring many more benefits for API women. The law will halt discriminatory insurance practices, banning insurers from denying us coverage based on so-called “preexisting conditions” like pregnancy, cesarean sections or domestic violence. Additionally, all new health care plans will be required to cover maternity care, and many insurers will no longer be permitted to charge us higher premiums than men.

Also in 2014, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion will make nearly 10 percent of Asian Americans and 55 percent of women newly eligible for comprehensive Medicaid coverage. The gains will be even more pronounced for certain ethnic groups.

Illustrating just how impactful health care reform is for women’s lives, Jenny Ton, a Vietnamese-American woman, told her personal, and powerful, story during a White House briefing coordinated by the National Asian and Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). Bravely speaking through tears, Jenny shared how her mother, an immigrant to the U.S., was unknowingly relying on only one kidney for 25 years- a situation that could have become fatal. Without enough money of their own to pay for medical care, Medicaid was a blessing for the Ton family. Thanks to Medicaid benefits, Jenny’s mother lived to see her grow up and to see her grandchildren be born.

API women are critical beneficiaries of the ACA. For us, defending it means fighting for the health and lives of all those in our community without health insurance. It means defending ourselves from choosing between reproductive health care and putting food on the table. It means making sure we are not denied coverage simply because we are women, because companies would rather improve their bottom lines than our health.

At its core, the healthcare debate is about what—and who—we as a society choose to value. Next week, as this law becomes even more shrouded in political debate and legal jargon, I believe it is imperative that we keep the people who are at stake at the center of this conversation. The health and lives of millions of Americans depend on it.

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