College of Law > Academics > Centers, Institutes & Initiatives > Mary and Michael Jaharis Health Law Institute > e-Pulse Blog > Obamacare Repeal Has Many Concerned

Obamacare Repeal Has Many Concerned

Uninsured Americans have a right to obtain emergency care, however they receive less care until they need emergency care.  When emergency medical attention is needed, it can be ineffective at treating chronic diseases.  Typically the patient’s health condition results in early death.  Who are these Americans who are uninsured? These are people who cannot get insurance through their employer or cannot afford to buy insurance on their own, but do not meet poverty levels required for public insurance programs.

Access to care was one of the most important themes of the ACA. Although the ACA has its challenges, it provides access to insurance coverage that many Americans would otherwise not have.  The goal of the ACA is to provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured Americans while improving the quality of care.  Before the ACA, insurance companies had the right to deny Americans who had pre-existing medical condition or women who were pregnant.  Yet the ACA mandates insurance companies to cover all citizens, even those with pre-existing medical conditions

To cover uninsured Americans, the ACA applied several mechanisms.  The ACA increased financial access for low income Americans by subsidy; increased Medicaid coverage; prohibited insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing health conditions and allowed individuals to stay on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26. 

Many republican controlled states chose to forego Medicaid expansion under the ACA making many individuals feel uneasy about the impending repeal of the ACA.  To bring these concerns to life, NPR, WFAE and Kaiser Health News reported that people in states like North Carolina (Republican State) are afraid about what will happen if the ACA is repealed. Kaiser health News recently ran a story about a woman from Charlotte, North Carolina named Darlene Hawes.  She was uninsured before she bought coverage on the marketplace, with a help of a tax subsidy in 2015.  Ms. Hawes, like many Americans, has a pre-existing medical condition.  She had previously required breast-cancer surgery and has ongoing heart problems.  Hawes is one of about 550,000 North Carolinians who rely on the ACA for health insurance

At the end of December 2016, North Carolina had the third-highest enrollment for 2017 plans among states using the marketplace.  Yet premiums are on the rise because insurance companies are being forced out of the marketplace at an alarming rate.  Currently, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina remains the only insurer in the ACA marketplace.  According to Blue Cross & Blue Shield, it is an expensive market because of the large number of older individuals and people who consume more health care.  Insurance premiums have been on the rise, but because of the ACA subsidies, most people are still able to afford their plans. 

Sara Kelly was also featured on a news story as a new customer of Blue Cross & Blue Shield.  According to Kelly, the ACA is not perfect, but with the tax subsidy she receives, she is now able to afford her premium.  Michigan is another republican state whose residents may find themselves in trouble if the ACA is repealed.  In Michigan, nearly 1 in 10 residents, about 13 percent of the population, may feel the consequences of ACA repeal​ if they receive health care coverage through the ACA or Medicaid. 

In short, what will happen to people like Sara Kelly, Darlene Hawes, and many more citizens if the ACA is repealed?  Many people will simply not be able to afford health insurance without tax subsidies.  If they go back to relying on emergency care for chronic illnesses, they will receive inferior care, which results in early death and unaffordable medical bills.

Ana Mazanashvili is a student at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago. Ana holds Law degree from Caucasus University in homeland Georgia. She is a staff writer at DePaul Health Care Law Journal and will complete her J.D. in May 2017.