Protester backs Obamacare in front of supreme court: lawsuit can end Joshua Roberts program / Reuters/VEJA
The U.S. government has filed a request in the United States Supreme Court to repeal the law that created the health care program popularly known as Obamacare. If successful, the action could leave about 23 million people unassisted, in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike in Brazil, Americans do not have access to a universal health care system. Medical care depends on private plans. Ten years ago, Barack Obama’s administration created a subsidy program to provide health insurance for those who can’t afford one. The law also requires large companies to offer assistance to their employees.
Since arriving at the White House, Donald Trump has made several criticisms of Obamacare and said he would replace it with a new law that would expand services. The measure, however, was never presented by Trump, nor by Representatives of the Republican Party in parliament.
Now, the government hitched a ride in a lawsuit filed by the government of Texas and 19 other states in 2017 to question the constitutionality of the law. Three years ago, Republicans controlled the House and Senate and passed tax reform that ended penalties for citizens who did not have health insurance – the so-called individual mandate – instituted in the creation of Obamacare. Now, the government argues that this change makes the entire program unconstitutional. “Every program must be in accordance with the individual mandate,” attorney general Noel Francisco wrote.
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The Supreme Court has already ruled on two actions involving Obamacare and has kept most of the law in place. The Texas case is by far the most serious challenge to the program.
Even Republicans recognize that action happens at a delicate time. The Covid-19 Pandemic has reached more than 2.4 million people and sets records in southern states, including Texas. Every 24 hours, about 40,000 new cases are reported. Joel White, a Republican strategist, said in a recent interview with the New York Times that he considered it “pretty stupid to talk about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic.”
Democrats, who regained the chamber in 2018, are headed in the opposite direction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi scheduled a vote Monday on a measure to expand the health care law and characterized the government’s action as “an act of unfathomable cruelty.” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has already signaled that he intends to turn the issue into one of the main points of the campaign.
The lawsuit also drew opposition from hospitals and doctors, including the American Medical Association. “It would be a self-inflicted wound that could take decades to heal,” the agency wrote in a statement in the process before the Suprem Court.