Friday, June 29, 2012

Affordable Care Act May not be too Affordable for Many Blacks in the Long Run

The November Presidential election became a little bit more exciting.  Upon its 5 to 4 affirmation of “the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has set the stage for what will be a dramatic political circus.  With the deciding vote, Chief Court Justice Robert’s wrote the opinion for the majority and outlined the limitations of the court and the constitutionality of what is called Obama care in a fifty-nine page opinion.

In simple terms, the government can mandate that people be forced to buy health insurance from the small group of companies that monopolize the market.  The Court avoided the issue of addressing the Commerce Clause by ruling that it was merely a tax instead.  The decision was split on party lines.  Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy asserted that in additional to the other three conservative jurists; their preference would have been to strike down the entire law. This is the first time in US history that the courts have supported a requirement for American citizens to enter a contract with private corporations to purchase a product or service. Many like Dr. Ron Paul fell that the law is a clear violation of Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.  He states that regulating “commerce cannot include the power to compel commerce.”

In the long run, it is yet to be known how this decision may impact African Americans.  There will be both good and bad.  However, the law’s requirement that some individuals will have to pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance as being a reasonable tax may be damaging to many, in particular given the massive disparity in income, net worth and unemployment among African Americans.  As it currently stands, ACA requires that all citizens must have health care coverage or face a penalty of 2.5 percent of their income. In addition, the court limited the Medicaid provision which would have expanded coverage to those under the age of 65 who earn less than $30,000 a year for a family of four.  This would have expanded coverage to an additional 16 million Americans.

This is a major victory for the Obama administration and his historical legacy.  The question remains however, it is yet to be determined if the Affordable Care Act will be affordable to lower income and minority populations, or the inability for many to pay fines for services they cannot afford, will result in prison terms as mandated by the law.

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