ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Supreme Court and representatives for 18 states went back and forth all morning Tuesday arguing whether or not to completely get rid of the Affordable Care Act.
“That would have direct, disastrous consequences for New York and health reform efforts that the state has undertaken over the last decade,” explains Eric Linzer, the New York Health Plan Association CEO.
Linzer says around 1.8 million New Yorkers joined Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act and expanded eligibility. There were also more than 800,000 who took up New York’s federally-funded Essential Plan alternative. New York also added its own protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“The federal government has provided a significant amount of money to states that did decide to expand their Medicaid offerings, and that’s in addition to what was offered to New York, which created a basic health plan. There’s been a lot of benefits in New York that’s come from the Affordable Care Act,” Linzer says.
He says those millions of people can’t afford a potential state tax increase if federal funding stopped — especially now in the middle of COVID-19.
“We shouldn’t be increasing the state’s health insurance taxes right now, or at all. In New York, the taxes imposed on health insurance are the third highest revenue generator behind income tax and the sales tax,” he says.
“However, at a time where New York is facing a significant budget deficit this year, next year, and going forward, the state’s just not going to have the funding to be able to replace those federal funds if the ACA is struck down,” Linzer explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Texas’ Solicitor General represented the Republican-lead states against the ACA in court Tuesday. Kyle Hawkins argues a government mandate to buy health insurance is unconstitutional, even though Congress voted in 2017 to remove any penalty if you don’t. Part of that year’s tax bill lowered the penalty amount for not enrolling in insurance down to zero, but did not change the ACA language to remove the mandate all together.
“On the one hand, you’re sending the important message that individuals should have insurance coverage and should take whatever steps they can to make sure they have it, particularly in a year like 2020 where we are facing the coronavirus. At the same time, the fact that the penalty has been zeroed out begs the question of, what harm is really being done, either to the 18 Republican states that have raise these questions or to the two individuals who joined the suit?” asks Linzer.
“That in and of itself should stand separate and apart and it shouldn’t undermine the ACA, but at the same time, you just never know how the court may come out on issues like this,” he goes on.
Hawkins pushed the Supreme Court justices to strike down the allegedly unconstitutional mandate and the Affordable Care Act with it, claiming one cannot exist without the other based on the statute’s language. Linzer says a decision isn’t coming any time soon, but New York should still prepare for the worst case scenario.
“We need to be making sure, from a policy standpoint, we are not doing anything to impose new costs on employers or the cost of coverage for individuals, whether it’s through our health insurance taxes, new mandated benefits, or other provisions that add to the cost of coverage,” he says.
He urges New York lawmakers to start work now to build on working relationships with health care and insurance providers, work on lowering health care and pharmaceutical costs so premiums stay low, and to address inequality in the access to care.