Once again, the fate of the Affordable Care Act likely lies in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices. Unfortunately, Americans will not know before the 2020 election if the landmark health care law will survive its third challenge before the nation’s highest court.
In declining to fast-track the Texas v. U.S. case, a decision made without comment in mid-January, the Supreme Court sidestepped the political circus that would involve a decision on the law during a presidential campaign. But its actions should thrust politicians into the center ring.
If the law would be struck down, what is the replacement plan? The ACA provided financial assistance to help millions of Americans to buy private health insurance. How soon will this help go away? The law helped close Medicare’s “doughnut hole” for prescription medication costs. How will seniors pay their pharmacy bill? What will happen to those depending on the law’s historic consumer protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions?
Republicans deserve to have the spotlight first in answering this question. The Texas attorney general launched this latest court challenge, and the Trump administration declined to defend the law. The Republican-led U.S. House and Senate failed to pass a repeal-and-replace plan in 2017. A Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate plan calculated that 22 million fewer people would have coverage by 2026 than under the ACA.
Democrats also need to have preparations in place. They may not have instigated this court fight, but they also need to have solutions at hand. Depending on this fall’s election results, they may be in the lead cleanup role.
What’s your plan if the ACA is overturned? No politician should be able to escape that question at any upcoming 2020 campaign event.