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President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris spent part of Tuesday trying to focus the nation’s attention on what’s at stake if the Supreme Court should strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Biden and Harris briefed reporters from their temporary headquarters in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Del., the same day as the Supreme Court in Washington DC heard arguments in a case brought by the Trump administration seeking to tear down the decade-old ACA, also known as “Obamacare.”
It was one Biden’s core campaign promises to build upon and strengthen the ACA, particularly by adding a so-called “public option” for those who cannot easily access affordable private insurance.
“If the Supreme Court agrees with the opponents of the act, their decision could take healthcare away from 20 million Americans,” Harris said. “It could take away protections from more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions in our country, and hurt the millions of Americans who have come to rely on the Affordable Care Act.
“Getting rid of the Affordable Care Act will take us backwards to a time when people could charge a woman more for her healthcare than they could charge a man simply because she’s a woman, to a time when pregnancy could be considered a preexisting condition,” the nation’s first woman vice president-elect added. “It will take away free birth control and contraceptive coverage for women. This is all happening at a moment when our country is suffering through a pandemic that has claimed more than 238,000 lives.
“And we all know that if the Affordable Care Act is struck down, communities of color would be hit particularly hard: black, Asian, Hispanic, and native American, because they are at a greater risk of pre-existing conditions from asthma to diabetes, to lupus. And they are also three times as likely to contract COVID-19, and twice as likely to die as others,” Harris said, before adding, very pointedly, putting the high court in the midst of a political battle:
“Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a statement that healthcare in America should be a right and not a privilege. Each and every vote for Joe Biden was a vote to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, not to tear it away in the midst of a global pandemic,” she said. “And Joe Biden won the election decisively with more votes than have ever been cast in American history. It amounts to 75 million voices and counting, calling on the Supreme Court to see this case for what it is: a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the people.”
Biden pointed out that the ACA has been upheld twice before at the Supreme Court, and has become increasingly popular among the American people, with 58 percent of them wanting to keep the law.
“This doesn’t need to be a partisan issue. It’s a human issue. It affects every single American family. We can’t subvert the growing consensus of the American people based on an argument put forward in the briefs seeking to invalidate the law that even many conservative legal scholars, including in a National Review article considered to be, ‘ridiculous.’ Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s at stake.
“The consequences of the Trump administration’s argument are not academic or an abstraction. For many Americans, they’re a matter of life and death in a literal sense,” Biden added. “This argument will determine whether healthcare coverage of more than 20 million Americans who acquired under the Affordable Care Act will be ripped away in the middle of the nation’s worst pandemic in a century.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court, Biden said his nascent administration would work strongly in the area of healthcare from the beginning.
“We’re going to fight for your family’s health coverage the same way we fight for our own family’s health coverage. We want every single American to know if you’re sick, if you’re struggling, if you’re worried about how you’re going to get going to get through the day, we will not abandon you. That is a promise. We’ll not leave you to face these challenges alone. We’re going to get through this. We’re going to get through it together,” he said. “And we’re going to build a healthcare system that puts you and your families first, and that every American can be proud of.”
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