HearTheNine.org features nine stories for the nine Supreme Court justices set to rule on the Affordable Care Act.
Washington, D.C. — Nine Supreme Court justices hold the fate of millions of Americans’ access to affordable health care in their hands. The impact of their ruling is highlighted in the new video “9 Judges, 9 Million Lives” and personal stories from Georgia, Nebraska, and North Carolina released today by the Center for American Progress. The three stories are the final in a series of nine, corresponding to the nine justices and highlighting the real-life impacts of King v. Burwell, a Supreme Court case regarding tax credits for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and the most recent effort by conservatives to use the Court against the ACA. The consequences of a ruling against the ACA could have devastating effects for people such as Rachel Farmer of North Carolina, whose family was able to get coverage for $10 per month after tax credits, a far cry from the $600 premium she found on the private market. All nine stories can be found at HearTheNine.org.
“9 Judges, 9 Million Lives” tells the story of Jennifer Causor of Memphis, Tennessee, who was profiled in the first release two weeks ago. It also details how the authors of the law always expected the premium tax credits to be available in all 50 states and how this is simply a partisan attempt to gut the ACA.
“I think that a 5-4 decision invalidating the premium tax credits would seriously call into question the legitimacy of the Court,” Tim Jost of the Washington and Lee University School of Law says in the video. “I think it’s going to be pretty transparently for political reasons.”
Conservatives have been trying for years to undermine and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Since they have been unable to do it legislatively, they “recruited [the Supreme Court] into the front lines of a partisan war.” A decision in favor of the plaintiffs would have devastating consequences for the nation’s health care system. Millions of Americans have signed up for and are benefiting from health care under the Affordable Care Act, from saving money on premiums and care to simply having access they did not have before. In many cases, the Affordable Care Act has saved lives.
Today’s stories feature:
- Vaughn Alvarez of Atlanta, Georgia, dreamed of getting a job at a public relations firm, but the barrier was access to affordable health care. But after shopping for a plan on the marketplace, Vaughn now pays $80 per month thanks to tax credits and got his new job.
“I signed up on the marketplace, and it was easy. If you have a social media account, you can sign up for health insurance. It’s important to me to stay healthy. Whether that means getting my annual wellness exam or getting tested for National HIV Testing Day, I can do that thanks to the Affordable Care Act.”
- Lisa Good of Lincoln, Nebraska, lost her job at age 50 and went six years without health insurance when her new job paid significantly less than the one she lost. Thanks to the ACA, Lisa has found a silver plan costing just $33 per month after tax credits and no longer fears bankruptcy due to health issues.
“I was curious and called the HealthCare.gov phone number to ask some questions. I found out I could actually afford this monthly premium that everyone had told me would be outrageous. The Affordable Care Act has made me feel like a real American—like I mattered and belonged. I’m grateful it will help keep me healthy and out of bankruptcy, should anything happen.”
- Rachel Farmer of Nags Head, North Carolina, owns a small business and has a 9-month-old child with her husband Robert. When they tried to find private insurance coverage, she found that hers alone would cost $600 per month. Under the North Carolina marketplace, Rachel and her family have a plan that costs just $10 per month after tax credits.
“Our mortgage went up, we have a 9-month-old, and any income goes straight to bills and caring for a child. Not having to pay an outrageous amount of money to get health insurance helps us lead the lives we want for our family.”
“Over the course of the past three weeks, we have seen story after story of the Affordable Care Act helping ordinary, hardworking Americans get access to coverage,” said Michele Jawando, Vice President for Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress. “Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled favorably on hypothetical outcomes of the Affordable Care Act, but the actions of these justices this year will have immediate consequences for real people. The ACA is working, as evidenced by the more than 11 million Americans who signed up or re-enrolled during this open enrollment period, many of whom would lose tax credits if the Court rules against the ACA.”
Unlike two years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled before the marketplaces were in effect, the Court’s decision on King v. Burwell will have immediate real-world consequences. More than 11 million people signed up or re-enrolled in the open enrollment period that closed Sunday, and millions more have benefitted from Medicaid expansion in their states. Through King v. Burwell, conservative opposition to the Affordable Care Act is attempting to undermine the law through a key clause that clearly states that tax credits for insurance will be available across all 50 states for low-income Americans. Over the past three weeks, CAP has released nine stories to match the nine Supreme Court justices, who will hear oral arguments on March 4. The stories and video can be found at HearTheNine.org.
- At least 11.4 million Americans signed up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act during the 2014–2015 open enrollment period.
- Last year, nearly 7 in 10 people who enrolled in the marketplaces selected a plan that cost $100 or less per month, after factoring in tax credits.
- Americans are getting better coverage than before with access to preventive services such as vaccines, cancer screenings, and yearly wellness visits with no out-of-pocket costs. And, as many stories have shown, insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny or drop anyone from coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
All nine stories, leading with today’s new features:
Rachel Farmer, Nags Head, North Carolina
Rachel Farmer had health insurance prior to the Affordable Care Act, but it did not provide some of the basic coverage she needed, such as maternity care. Along with her husband Robert and a few business partners, Rachel opened a small surf school and coffee shop on the beach. As small-business owners looking to start a family, the couple wanted to find health insurance that was not only affordable, but also provided the coverage they required. Rachel did some research and found out a private insurance plan for her alone would cost $600 per month—a price that would not work for their budget. After she got pregnant in 2013, Rachel signed up for the Affordable Care Act through the North Carolina marketplace. Health insurance for both her and her husband was only $10 per month after receiving tax credits. Her daughter Mae was born in April 2014, and they re-enrolled as a family. This time, their rate was even lower. “Our mortgage went up, we have a 9 month old, and any income goes straight to bills and caring for a child. Not having to pay an outrageous amount of money to get health insurance helps us lead the lives we want for our family.”
Lisa Good, Lincoln, Nebraska
After losing her job at age 50, Lisa Good used her COBRA health insurance as long as the law would allow. She eventually found a job at a local hospital, but it only paid 30 percent of the salary of her former position and did not provide any benefits. After looking for a private plan, Lisa determined it was too expensive for her and went six years without health coverage. “I was living paycheck to paycheck and not making ends meet. I didn’t even feel like a valued member of society anymore.” After the Nebraska marketplace opened, Lisa, now working in retail, decided to shop for a plan. “I was curious and called the HealthCare.gov phone number to ask some questions. I found out I could actually afford this monthly premium that everyone had told me would be outrageous.” She was able to sign up for a silver plan for only $24 per month. This year, she re-enrolled and found a monthly premium of only $33. “The Affordable Care Act has made me feel like a real American—like I mattered and belonged. I’m grateful it will help keep me healthy and out of bankruptcy, should anything happen.”
Vaughn Alvarez, Atlanta, Georgia
At age 26, Vaughn Alvarez wanted to make a career change. After working for the federal government for a few years, he was interested in becoming a publicist at a public relations firm. However, the small start-up company did not offer health insurance coverage, something that Vaughn had to take into account when pursuing his dream job. After the marketplace opened in Georgia, he had a new option to find affordable health care coverage. “I signed up on the marketplace, and it was easy. If you have a social media account, you can sign up for health insurance.” Vaughn was able to find a platinum plan that only cost him $80 per month after receiving tax credits. “It’s important to me to stay healthy. Whether that means getting my annual wellness exam or getting tested for National HIV Testing Day, I can do that thanks to the Affordable Care Act.” Without the marketplace and the credits, Vaughn would not have been able to switch to his dream job, and now the Supreme Court threatens to take that away.
Julie and Danny T., Decatur, Georgia
Julie and Danny T. of Decatur, Georgia, started their own business 10 years ago. Prior to signing up for the Affordable Care Act, the couple had a very basic policy with a $6,000 deductible and a payment of around $400 per month. They used this plan to cover an annual physical exam but hoped and prayed that they would stay healthy. After breaking her foot, Julie was rushed to the emergency room—a trip that cost her $1,700. “Money is tight, and we struggle as it is. Something as simple as walking around the block could end up costing us thousands.” In 2014, Julie and Danny were able to sign up for the Affordable Care Act using the marketplace, where the couple found a plan with smaller deductibles, improved coverage, and tax credits that brought their plan down to only $100 per month. Later that year, Julie started experiencing constant pain. After visits to a dozen different specialists, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—a disorder that will stay with her for the rest of her life. “If I didn’t have my new health insurance plan, those specialist appointments probably would have put us in bankruptcy,” Julie said. “I had MRIs and saw so many specialists, it would have cost us thousands. It really gave me peace of mind to know that I can care for my health in an affordable way.”
Jordan H., Toledo, Ohio
When Jordan H. of Toledo, Ohio, lost his job in 2013, his total household income fell 60 percent, making it impossible for him and his wife to pay for a private health insurance plan. When the marketplace opened in 2014, both Jordan and his wife were able to sign up for affordable health care. “Enrolling for coverage through HealthCare.gov was the only way we could afford health coverage,” Jordan said. Over the years, Jordan has had many unexpected health issues, including narcolepsy—a neurological disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness and, at times, can make a person suffering from the disorder suddenly fall asleep. While there is no cure, Jordan needs a prescription that helps him maintain a daily routine that would cost him $10,000 per month out of pocket. Under the Affordable Care Act, his prescription costs him only $25 per month. Both Jordan and his wife now work part time and recently re-enrolled in the marketplace. They receive about $300 in tax credits to help them pay for their monthly costs.
Celia M., Miami, Florida
Since 2005, Celia M. of Florida had been unable to find affordable health coverage. A self-employed pilates instructor and therapist, Celia could only find private insurance that cost upwards of $900 per month. So she went without coverage for nine years, luckily avoiding any serious issues with her health. In 2014, Celia decided to find coverage from the Florida marketplace. After signing up for a silver plan, Celia had a minor accident in her home that required a trip to the emergency room. After receiving treatment for the fall, Celia’s largest hospital bill was $57. “I couldn’t have even imagined what that would have cost me out of pocket—more than I could ever afford,” she said. This year, Celia re-enrolled for another silver plan and receives tax credits to help her pay for the cost. For around $200 per month, Celia feels assured that she will be covered for any health incident—minor or major—and has made a point of getting an annual wellness exam. “I’m just so worried about having my coverage taken away. I finally have health insurance I can afford, and now I have the risk of losing it. I can’t imagine going back to having to worry about suffering from anything worse than a cold.”
Aurora Harris, Houston, Texas
Aurora got her health insurance coverage through Texas’ federal marketplace. Aurora, age 26, works at a small nonprofit where she helps her LGBT peers find the coverage they need. An active member of her community, Aurora speaks at events about the no-cost preventive services, such as well-person exams and mammograms, that are part of the essential health benefits in all health plans in the marketplace. When she signed up, Aurora not only found a great plan, but also was able to receive financial assistance to pay for her coverage—saving more than $1,500 last year. “I wouldn’t be able to afford my policy otherwise,” said Aurora. “It has really helped me be able to get my well-person exam and other prevention screenings that I’d not had in years.” Together with her girlfriend, who also benefits from the Affordable Care Act, they are taking a stand for equality and getting the affordable coverage they need. As Aurora put it, “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we can breathe easier, knowing we both have health insurance that we can afford. I want everyone—especially my LGBT family—to know that they can get covered too.”
Jennifer Causor, Memphis, Tennessee
Jennifer grew up living with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that caused her lungs to fill with fluid and still interferes with her digestive system. In August 2013, after decades of life-threatening illness and the collapse of her lungs, Jenn received two new, cystic-fibrosis-free lungs. Although her life is much improved since her transplant, Jenn is unable to return to work—her transplant makes it difficult to keep a normal schedule and returning to work also increases the already high risk of infection. She enrolled in the Affordable Care Act in 2014 through the exchange the day after her COBRA plan, which allowed her to stay on her previous employer’s health plan, ran out. The cost of Jenn’s treatment without insurance is staggering. Her transplant alone cost $279,379, according to a statement of benefits she received from her insurance company. Jenn is currently taking three anti-rejection drugs, one of which has a sticker price of nearly $2,400 per month. That does not include the cost of her other anti-rejection drugs, her anti-fungal drugs, or the drugs she takes to mitigate the infection she caught from her lung donor. “My anti-rejection meds, I have to be on them. Like, I have to. If I went off of them, I would go into rejection and I would eventually die,” Jenn says. On January 1, 2014, Jennifer Causor woke for the first time knowing that no matter what direction her health turned, she would at least live without fear that she would not be able to afford treatment.
Joe Lucas, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Joe is a self-employed painter from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who has not had health insurance for most of his life. In 2000, he was able to get health insurance through an employer, but after five years, his premium rate was out of control—amounting to nearly one-quarter of his income—forcing him to make the difficult decision to become uninsured again. Three years later, Joe suffered an aortic aneurism. After 11 days in the hospital, he went home with a $69,000 medical bill and the headache of finding a health care plan with a pre-existing condition. When he tried to find coverage, he was quoted monthly premiums of almost $1,000, or in most cases, he was denied coverage completely. But with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Joe was able to purchase transitional insurance under Pennsylvania’s pre-existing condition program until the marketplace officially opened. As soon as the marketplace opened, Joe was able to shop around for other coverage options with lower deductibles and copays. He had the choice of 35 different plans and received a monthly $233 subsidy. With his subsidy, Joe paid only $150 per month last year for his silver plan. With coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Joe does not have to worry about getting the annual checkup he needs for his doctor to monitor his heart condition. In addition, his blood pressure medicine and annual CT scan, which can cost $11,000 without insurance, are now much more affordable. Joe said that without the subsidy he receives under the Affordable Care Act, he would be unable to afford health coverage without working significantly more hours. “The subsidies are important to me because not only do they help lower premiums, they also lower deductibles and copays, which also lower out-of-pocket expenses,” said Joe. “I have a zero deductible with low copays for office visits, which provides tremendous peace of mind knowing that a major medical event will not cause me financial distress.” He recently re-enrolled this year after finding an affordable plan for his lifestyle and discovered he would save more than $2,600 on his prescriptions annually.
For more information, contact Benton Strong at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.481.8142.