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What an Affordable Care Act Repeal Could Mean for Cancer Patients

What an Affordable Care Act Repeal Could Mean for Cancer Patients
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Published on October 16, 2020

Coverage for Cancer Patients During an Election Year

2020 has been a stressful year for many people worldwide. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spread rapidly, bringing most of the world to a standstill. In the United States, wildfires, national protests and a very intense election year seem to be all we can take.

However, with the recent passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to pancreatic cancer, an unclear future hangs in the balance for many cancer patients, specifically in terms of healthcare.

What does the passing of a Supreme Court justice have to do with you as a cancer patient? The Affordable Care Act.

What Would Happen if the Affordable Care Act is Repealed?

One of the major tenets of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the fact that it requires insurance companies to cover people who have pre-existing conditions. It even requires them to charge those with pre-existing conditions the same amount as everyone else.1 This was a huge win for many hard-working Americans, especially cancer patients. Higher fees and limited coverage options only added to the stress that cancer patients felt prior to the passage of the 2010 law.2

This brings us back to today. The recent passing of Justice Ginsburg to pancreatic cancer leaves a vacancy on the Supreme Court. With an election just weeks away, there is a push to get another justice onto the court before the next session starts.

This next justice and the court will have the ability to strike down sections, or the entire, ACA. Were this to happen, millions of Americans, including those battling cancer, would potentially be left uninsured and at risk of being denied health insurance.

Is the Affordable Care Act Unconstitutional? 

California vs. Texas is a pending case before the Supreme Court.3 There are currently more than 18 states suing the United States government over what is commonly known as the individual mandate. The mandate is part of the ACA and requires that every American maintain a minimal level of health insurance coverage or risk facing a fine.

In 2017, this fee was lowered to zero. It is currently being argued that because there is no fee attached to the law as it currently stands, Congress does not have the power to enforce the individual mandate, thus making it unconstitutional. This places the law’s fate in limbo as the case is decided.

The case will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 8, five days after the election.

How to Prepare for a Repeal of the Affordable Care Act

If you are like me, and many other Americans, a potential repeal of the ACA means reassessing your current healthcare situation. The possibility of waking up one day without access to healthcare is too grave to ignore. This is made even more consequential by the fact that the world is living through a global pandemic.

Here are five things you can do today:

  1. Vote. Making sure you’re registered to vote and educated on the issues is one way to ensure your health care priorities are heard. For more information about voting, please visit vote.gov.
  2. Review your current coverage. If you are currently enrolled in health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at Healthcare.gov, or through a state marketplace, your coverage could be at risk if the ACA is repealed.
    If you are covered through insurance provided by your employer, you may still be affected but you’ll likely have more room to maneuver. Either way, it might be in your best interest to assess other options for coverage just in case of a change.
  3. Explore other health care options. Medicare may be a safe bet for those without insurance. It costs less than private insurance and is sometimes easier to obtain. Nevertheless, gaps in coverage and sometimes even unlimited out-of-pocket expenses may make other options more viable. It is also not possible to have dependents (family members) added to these plans.4 Visit medicare.gov for more information.
    Private-sector plans are also an option for those in need. Premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, and certain caps may apply and should be looked at carefully.5
  4. Assess your financial situation. Speak openly and honestly about your current financial situation with your healthcare team, care partners and any other important individuals. Changes in your coverage might mean a disruption in care, and self-advocacy will help provide the smoothest transition possible. Financial navigators are available to help.
  5. Prepare for what’s next. Cancer is an expensive disease to treat, especially in America. It is not uncommon for some people battling the disease to be forced into impossible decisions. Some even experience bankruptcy from healthcare costs. But by asking for help and being prepared for potential changes to your coverage, you may be able to reduce the risk of cancer-related financial toxicity.

In the seemingly never-ending bad news cycle of 2020, maintaining hope can be difficult. Yet, one’s state of mind can make a world of difference for keeping stress and anxiety at a reasonable level. Finding moments to focus on self-care can be just as important to your health as planning for the future.

A Final Note About the ACA and Pre-Existing Conditions

For the moment, this all remains hypothetical. The ACA still remains the law of the land and pre-existing conditions are still covered by most health insurance plans. Additionally, many states have added protections to their healthcare plans to protect pre-existing conditions. While protections vary by state, this means that some people affected by a change to the law will still be able to obtain healthcare.

As the situation continues to evolve, Patient Power will keep you updated. We want you to have all of the information you need to make informed decisions about your health.

~Silas Hassrick

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References:

1https://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/about-the-aca/pre-existing-conditions/index.html

2https://www.firstquotehealth.com/health-insurance-news/pre-existing-condition-cancer

3https://www.kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/explaining-california-v-texas-a-guide-to-the-case-challenging-the-aca/

4https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/is-medicare-better-than-private-insurance

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