Lawsuit would end health coverage for more than 600,000 in Colorado
DENVER – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting major recession, 18 state attorneys general and the Trump Administration are expected to file briefs today asking the Supreme Court to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA). If the lawsuit succeeds, some 600,000 Coloradans – likely many more – would lose health coverage. In contrast, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is helping defend the ACA from this ill-founded legal assault.
“The AGs’ lawsuit backed by the administration, if successful, will throw the health care system into chaos in the middle of a pandemic and economic recession,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans would lose coverage and many more would be forced to pay more for coverage or care.”
The Supreme Court is likely to decide the case in the first half of 2021 when the unemployment rate is still expected to be about 10 percent and the public health crisis will likely still be ongoing. ACA repeal was projected to cause 20 million people to lose coverage nationally – and 600,000 people in Colorado – before the crisis. Many more would likely lose coverage if the law is repealed with COVID-19.
Many of the estimated 500,000 Coloradans who have already lost job-based health coverage during the recession are eligible for coverage thanks to the ACA. Most will qualify for coverage through Health First Colorado, Colorado’s Medicaid program, which Colorado expanded under the ACA, while some will qualify for financial assistance (premium tax credits) for private insurance through Connect for Health Colorado.
Both the Medicaid expansion and the financial assistance that help moderate-income people afford private coverage in the health insurance marketplaces would be eliminated if the ACA is struck down.
Research shows the ACA has improved access to care, financial security, and health outcomes – with strong evidence that both Medicaid expansion and coverage through the ACA marketplaces save lives.
The ACA also significantly narrowed racial disparities in health coverage, and the lawsuit would widen them. Based on pre-crisis estimates, repeal would cause nearly 1 in 10 Black people under age 65 and 1 in 10 Hispanic people under age 65 to lose their health insurance, compared to about 1 in 16 white people.
Coverage losses from the lawsuit would also lead to spikes in uncompensated care costs that would add to the financial burden on state and local budgets during an unprecedented state budget crisis. This would harm providers when many will likely still be reeling from the large drop in their revenues due to the pandemic. COVID-19 is threatening the survival of some community-based providers and safety net and rural hospitals.
“The ACA has bolstered Colorado’s ability to deal with both the pandemic and the resulting economic recession,” said Adam Fox. “Striking down the law through this manufactured lawsuit would impede efforts to end the public health crisis and economic fallout, while threatening the lives of countless Coloradans. At a time like this, we should be protecting the coverage options created through the ACA and increasing funding to Medicaid, not attacking them.”
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that represents 45+ Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumer-members advocating for high-quality, affordable and equitable health care. In 2018, CCHI received the “Get Wise” Consumer Protection award from the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).