Commentary from Leslie Dach, former HHS counselor

As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) turns ten years old, the American health care system faces its biggest test yet in combating the spread of the coronavirus. 

For ten years, the Affordable Care Act has ensured that millions of Americans, including the 2.4 million Wisconsinites living with a pre-existing condition, have access to quality, affordable health care. And now more than ever, as the United States grapples with the spread of the coronavirus, we must all work to protect our health care against President Trump’s and Republicans’ ongoing attacks against it.

Over the course of the past decade, the Affordable Care Act has helped more than 20 million Americans gain affordable health coverage. Before the ACA was enacted, insurers could discriminate against seniors, women, and people with pre-existing health conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, or diabetes by charging them more or denying them coverage. The ACA prohibits this kind of discrimination, and ensures that millions more can access the care they need. 

For ten years now the Affordable Care Act has helped keep Americans healthy and financially stable, but despite the progress made under the law, President Trump and Republicans are working to turn back the advances we have made by stripping millions of their health coverage, even as we confront a global pandemic made worse by the Trump administration’s failure to respond to the crisis.

Republicans years-long sabotage of Americans’ health care has already hurt the coronavirus response. Trump has pushed short-term junk plans that are exempt from the ACA’s provisions, including the requirement that all health plans cover essential health benefits, like preventative care and vaccines. The expansion of junk plans during the Trump administration has already led to reports of patients being tested for coronavirus receiving thousands of dollars in unexpected medical bills.

To make matters worse, President Trump’s approach to health care means some patients seeking coronavirus testing and treatment may not be covered. From attempting to slash the budget for the CDC and the NIH and disbanding an entire office within the White House to deal with pandemics, to making it harder for people to access health care, the Trump administration has left Americans more vulnerable to the coronavirus. 

Despite the coronavirus crisis, President Trump and his Republican allies continue their war on our health care. They continue to push their lawsuit to completely overturn the law, which if successful would eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions, undo bans on annual and lifetime caps, and rip coverage from more than 20 million Americans. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court announced it would take up the Trump-Republican lawsuit to dismantle the ACA in its upcoming term, threatening the care of millions during an unprecedented crisis.

It is also worth noting that if Trump is successful in the Supreme Court case, anyone who contracts coronavirus – which would likely be considered a pre-existing condition – will no longer be protected from discrimination from insurance companies. This lawsuit spells devastation for the more than 20 million Americans who gained coverage under the ACA, and would unleash chaos within the U.S. health system at a time when we desperately need stability and support.

Now more than ever, Wisconsinites and Americans across the country are relying on the access to quality, affordable health care the Affordable Care Act offers. The ongoing efforts to sabotage this landmark law as our country grapples with the deadly coronavirus outbreak are not only wrong, they are downright cruel. 

President Trump has a responsibility to protect Americans, which needs to start with ending his disastrous war on health care. The Affordable Care Act has taken this country a long way in ten years, and we simply cannot afford to be dragged backwards.