Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (referred to as the ACA), President Obama’s signature piece of legislation that intends to expand access to healthcare to the millions of uninsured Americans nationwide. The Supreme Court’s ruling was largely surprising, as many expected that the individual mandate would be declared unconstitutional and thus the law would be struck down. The individual mandate did indeed get declared unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, but in the end the law was upheld on the basis of the congressional right to impose taxes.
What does this mean for Maryland residents?
For one organization, the upholding of the ACA is a very exciting and beneficial development. The Baltimore-based organization Healthcare for the Homeless, which provides health-related services, education, and advocacy in order to reduce homelessness and its burdens on individuals and communities, supports the court’s recent decision.
“The Court’s decision makes possible the most significant expansion of Medicaid in the program’s history,” said Kevin Lindamood, President and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless. “Of the 9,000 clients seen at our five clinic sites throughout Maryland, 70% lack comprehensive health insurance. New Medicaid eligibility for most individuals earning less than $15,000 a year will substantially improve access to care for vulnerable people. Though the Court’s decision may unfortunately make expansion optional for States, we’re confident in Maryland’s leadership to fully expand the program and are eager to work with State officials to maximize the law’s potential.”
In addition to Lindamood’s assumption that Maryland will take the lead on expanding Medicaid, our state is one of 14 that have begun to implement a defining feature of the legislation. By building a state-run health insurance exchange, which (if run successfully) operates as a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can compare and choose their own insurance plans, Maryland leads the way in expanding the accessibility of healthcare to the uninsured. The states that do not create exchanges that fulfill the government’s stipulations put forth by Health and Human Services are subject to having the government create the state’s exchange. This aspect has received significant pushback, alluded to by Virginia governor and Republican Governor’s Association president Bob McDonnell when he released a statement noting the potential detriment of government action saying that this will “extend the federal government’s reach into the states and will cost the states millions of dollars annually to operate”.
What are your thoughts about the Affordable Care Act, and what does it mean to you? Also- test your knowledge of Healthcare Reform- how much do you know about the ACA? Take the Health Reform Quiz!