Image via Shutterstock / Tania Lili for COURIER
Image via Shutterstock / Tania Lili for COURIER

The U.S. Supreme Court will once again decide whether to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Former Sen. Russ Feingold and California Sen. Kamala Harris warned Tuesday that more than 150,000 Wisconsinites could lose health care, and another 2.4 million could be disqualified due to pre-existing conditions if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act when it rules later this year on a President Trump-backed lawsuit.

Harris and Feingold appeared alongside Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care, a health care advocacy organization, on a call with reporters Tuesday, the day before the first briefs are expected to be submitted in the case. They warned of dire implications for millions of Americans who could lose insurance if the ACA is killed in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This attempt to destroy (the ACA) is another way in which the courts are being utilized to undo something that the American people and the people of Wisconsin have fought for forever,” said Feingold, a three-term Democratic Wisconsin senator and current president of the American Constitution Society. “The 18 years I was in the United States Senate — I did 72 listening sessions every single year, so I did like 1,200 of them — by far the greatest request was fundamental health care reform.”

In Wisconsin, the impact of an ACA repeal would be severe, according to an analysis by Protect Our Care. At least 153,000 Wisconsinites, including 28,000 children and 41,000 young adults, would lose coverage, according to Protect Our Care, and another 2.4 million Wisconsinites would be at risk of losing coverage or paying greatly inflated costs due to pre-existing conditions.

“These are mindblowing numbers of people who’d be affected by this lawsuit, even in your state,” Woodhouse said. “It really does hit home.”

A repeal would affect people in all walks of life in Wisconsin, Feingold noted. The effect would be profound for everyone, no matter if they live in Milwaukee or Hayward, because the ACA also provides benefits to struggling rural hospitals through Medicaid expansion.

“The Affordable Care Act benefitted every American, and its destruction would have a severe impact on our society’s most vulnerable,” said Harris, a former Democratic presidential candidate. “Those who suffer the most are communities most at-risk historically, and they are low-income communities, people with pre-existing conditions, seniors, and especially people of color.”

The Affordable Care Act has long been a political lightning rod, with clear benefits for a majority of Americans, but also consequences such as high premiums for some. Republicans have tried to repeal the law since its 2010 passage despite majority public support for the law in general and overwhelming support for many of its individual protections.

Feingold compared the current case’s potential repercussions to those of the state Supreme Court’s decision to force voters to the polls on April 7 in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, which appears to have resulted in 52 additional cases of the potentially deadly virus.

“This is about the legitimacy of our courts,” Feingold said. “The way in which the Wisconsin election was distorted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court acting on a partisan basis … that illustrates what happens when the courts are manipulated in this way.”