By Bo Tefu, California Black Media
Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of keeping the core of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, intact.
That decision resolved more-than-a-decade-long Democrat-versus-Republican legal tug-of-war about the federal government’s role in health care coverage.
At the end of that grueling battle, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a former Assemblymember from Oakland, emerged a quiet victor.
In March, when Gov. Newsom appointed Bonta California’s 34th Attorney General, he stepped into a respected and carefully built legacy of successful legal advocacy and litigation against Conservative foes that his predecessor Xavier Becerra left behind. Pres. Biden appointed Becerra Health and Human Services Secretary.
Bonta said the Supreme Court’s decision, “affirms, once again and hopefully for the last time, that the ACA is the law of the land.”
“Americans know health coverage can mean the difference between life and death, so families across the country should rest easy tonight knowing their healthcare is safe,” said Bonta.
Bonta led a coalition of more than 20 states challenging Republican efforts to undo the Obama-Era health care act. He was joined by governor of Kentucky as well as the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The coalition successfully pushed back a lawsuit spearheaded by more than a dozen Republican states led by Texas and upheld benefits of the ACA including patient protections, affordability measures, and coverage expansions.
In the court case California versus Texas, Republican attorney generals tried to overturn a monetary penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum health insurance. The ACA, enacted in 2010, required individuals to get minimum health essential health insurance coverage and individuals who failed to do so would have to pay a penalty.
However, the requirement was amended in 2017 to cost $0 which voided the penalty fee.
Republican attorneys general filed a lawsuit in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals claiming that the amendments were unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court’s decision upheld the ACA provisions after Republicans were unsuccessful in making their case.
“No one should live in fear of being denied the lifesaving care they are entitled to, especially as our nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bonta.
According to the California Health Care Foundation, 3.7 million out of the 12.5 million people covered by Medi-Cal have health insurance through the ACA.
Health Advocates from community-based organizations across California say they are relieved by the Supreme Court’s ruling to keep the ACA but say that there is still room to make the law better.
Leaders from the California Black Health Network (CBHN), urged the state to focus on equity in healthcare.
Rhonda Smith, the executive director of CBHN highlighted that the court’s ruling helps reduce the lack of access to health care now that people get to keep their health care.
“One of the reasons why we have health disparities is because of the lack of access to healthcare services,” said Smith.
“It definitely plays a key role in trying to minimize health disparities, especially the impact of COVID on black and brown communities,” she said.
California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.