North Carolina woman living proof of Affordable Care Act benefits
Affordable health insurance for millions of Americans is in jeopardy, pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court expected to be announced by the end of the month. People like Minnie White, a former United Church of Christ employee in North Carolina, who rely on the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help pay insurance costs will be affected. White lives with congestive heart failure, and the insurance she bought through the ACA has given her the therapy she needs after a hospital stay in March.
Now, both White and the national setting of the church are urging the Supreme Court not to take the legs out from under the ACA. They believe the law, passed in 2010, is an important first step in moving toward a more inclusive system of healthcare that doesn’t burden middle- and low-income families with high premiums.
“Without the ACA, I would have no coverage and I would not be able to have the follow-up care necessary for my condition,” said White, who worked for 15 years as an associate for program and constituency development at Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, N.C. “I would not be able to afford my medication. The ACA will never meet 100 percent of the needs of people — it is not possible — but it does meet the needs of the majority of people who need it.”
“For over 35 years, the United Church of Christ has spoken prophetically that health care for all is a priority,” said Barbara Baylor, UCC policy advocate for domestic issues. “We continue to stand on our conviction that health care is not only a basic human right, but also a human need.”
White was one of 5 million people who bought health insurance through the ACA in 2014. As a 56-year-old diabetic who was self-employed and not eligible for Medicaid, White found insurance for $56 per month to cover 60 percent of her medical costs. On March 6, during a meeting at her local church in North Carolina, she lost consciousness and woke up 24 hours later in the hospital, on a respirator.
“My family tells me that even as the doctors were diligently working to save my life and get air into my lungs, an administrator came into the waiting room and asked, ‘Can anyone tell me what type of insurance coverage she has?'” White said. “I have no doubt that if the answer had been, ‘She doesn’t have any,’ that would not have stopped the doctors from doing their jobs. However, I do believe it would have been a determining factor in the care I received once I got off life support.”
By the end of June, the Supreme Court will decide if as many as 8 million people like White, who bought their insurance through an exchange—the state and federal marketplaces where people and small companies can shop for health insurance—should continue to receive federal subsidies that lower the cost of insurance premiums. Challengers in the case contend that only states can provide subsidies, and if the justices were to agree, it would threaten to raise insurance rates for people who receive subsidies from the federal government. Approximately 87 percent of people enrolled in the program receive some type of subsidy.
On March 4, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, King v. Burwell, about the interpretation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes referred to as Obamacare.
“The United Church of Christ decries any attempts to de-stabilize the Affordable Care Act and its life-giving and life-saving benefits to all who are in need of health care insurance,” Baylor said. “Participation by all individuals is a vital link in making the vision of an affordable system of health care a reality.”
Since her diagnosis, White has reflected on what happened and researched her condition. She learned that, although some tissues of her body aren’t receiving as much blood and oxygen, there is hope. With lifestyle changes and modern therapy for heart failure, she believes people with heart disease can still live long, meaningful lives.
All that could shift, she says, based on the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Without these subsidies, many individuals and families will not be able to pay for their health insurance,” Baylor said. “We affirm that everyone is created in the image of God. No one should be left outside of the community when they are in need of health care. No one should be abandoned when they are in need of health care. We all deserve healing.”
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