Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

30 million 'real' people in U.S. get health care

  • Print

The bottom line: the entire ACA (Affordable Care Act) is upheld.

That's what a Washington Post blogger wrote moments after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its ruling on the health-care law. But it wasn't upheld in the way most thought it would be. The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court's liberals, and Justice Anthony Kennedy casting his vote with the conservatives.

This will be covered, in many quarters, as a political story. It means President Barack Obama -- and Solicitor General Don Verrilli -- are popping the champagne.

It means Mitt Romney and the Republicans who were fighting the health-care law have suffered a setback.

It will be covered in other quarters as a legal story: It is likely to be central to Roberts' legacy, and perhaps even to how we understand the divisions in the court going forward.

And, to be sure, it's all those things. But those stories don't capture the effect this decision will have on ordinary Americans.

The individual mandate, by bringing healthy people into the insurance market and lowering premiums, means health insurance for between 12.5 million and 24 million more Americans than if the mandate were struck down.

And as Kennedy said in his dissent that the conservatives on the court believed the entire law should have been invalidated, it means health insurance for 33 million more Americans than if Kennedy and the conservatives had their way.

Those are big numbers. But behind them are real people. People such as Eric Richter.

Richter, a 39-year-old resident of Ohio, works at a stone drilling company. He and his wife made $36,000 a year. That's too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to easily afford insurance. So Richter didn't purchase insurance.

"It's hard to pay for the unknown, when you're struggling to cover the known," he told Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times. "I know it sounds irresponsible, but that's just the way it was. It's a game of roulette you hope you're going to win."

Then Richter discovered a tumour growing on his leg. He first tried home remedies, cutting out sugar and eating beets, having read somewhere it might help. But it kept growing. His wife sewed him new pants to accommodate the melon-sized lump. He stood in church, because it was too painful to sit down. He was turned away from a needed scan because he lacked insurance. In April, doctors in the emergency room told Richter his tumour was malignant. His wife desperately tried to find an insurer who would cover them. No one would. The tumor was, of course, a pre-existing condition.

Perhaps nothing in Richter's story speaks to the cruel reality of the American health-care system better than this: Richter's wife, Dani, was recently let go from her job at an electronic records firm. For most families, this would be a tragedy. For the Richters, it might be a lifesaver. The loss of income pushed them well beneath the poverty line, and that might mean they qualify for Medicaid.

"We're back to crossing our fingers," Mrs. Richter told Tavernise.

Richter has had some good luck, too. A doctor eventually took an interest in his case and helped him get surgery. The family, however, still has no idea how they will pay the bill for the surgery, or for his needed follow-up care.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act means that, come 2014, people such as the Richters get guaranteed health care coverage.

If their income is less than 133 per cent of the poverty line, they receive Medicaid (unless their state rejects federal Medicaid dollars for the expansion, something the court made it easier for them to do).

If their income is between 133 per cent and 400 per cent, they receive some level of subsidies. At $36,000, the Richters would be paying less than $200 a month, and no insurer can turn them away. If they are now below the poverty line, they get Medicaid, no questions asked.

There is uncertainty between here and 2014. In particular, Mitt Romney could win the election and repeal the law entirely, meaning none of the 30 million Americans expected to gain coverage under the law get it.

But the particular roulette wheel that began spinning when Republicans took to the courts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act has come to a stop. And the Richters have won. They can finally uncross their fingers.

Ezra Klein writes for the Washington Post.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 1, 2012 A15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Key of Bart - Take It Easy

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Goslings with some size head for cover Wednesday afternoon on Commerce Drive in Tuxedo Business Park - See Bryksa 30 Goose Challenge- Day 12- May 16, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A female Mallard duck leads a group of duckings on a morning swim through the reflections in the Assiniboine River at The Forks Monday.     (WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) Winnipeg Free Press  June 18 2012

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Which of Manitoba's new landlord-tenant rules are you looking forward to most?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google