by Desiree Hoffman
YWCA USA Advocacy and Policy Director
I hate to admit it but I had big Sally Jesse Raphael glasses with thick coke bottle lenses in the ’80s. I rocked crimped hair and loved my stirrup leggings even though my first pair had holes in them because they were hand me downs.
I am one of the faces of Medicaid. My siblings, my mother and I needed Medicaid for our health and well-being, not unlike many other young families who rely on this critical safety net during tough times. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to learn and excel in school as I was able to obtain proper vision care and eyeglasses. Without it, I wouldn’t have had the emergency wisdom tooth extraction that was so painfully needed. Without it, I wouldn’t be here today advocating for the implementation of the law that helps so many kids, mothers and working families who struggle to find affordable, quality health care every day. When I am on Capitol Hill sharing the stories of how YWCA clients benefit from the new law, I also carry my own personal experiences of knowing how Medicaid impacts and even saves lives.
This week was a historic week. The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion but with a critical caveat: The federal government may not threaten the states that don’t comply with the loss of their existing funding. Essentially, the Medicaid expansion is now optional for the states. In other words, those states who have already taken the initiative to expand eligibility and ensure that vulnerable populations such as children, the disabled and pregnant women are covered will continue to take steps to do so. However, states that are less favorable to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may choose not to expand their Medicaid programs. While many of us may be breathing a sigh of relief for the nation at the moment, our work is far from over. We will need to remain educated and watch out for states that politically dislike the ACA and/or are balancing their tight fiscal budgets. These may be the states where vulnerable families – like the ones our YWCAs serve – will need to see a doctor, get life-saving surgery and access much needed preventative care which saves lives and money in the long run.
Congress will attempt to pass bills to defund, repeal or replace the ACA similar to the first actions the House of Representatives took in the 112th Congress in 2011 to fully repeal the law (H.R. 2). House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has already scheduled a vote to repeal the ACA on July 11, a largely symbolic vote because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not allow repeal legislation to move forward in the Senate.
Despite all this politicking, I am going to revel in this moment and let that inner smile shine because the Highest Court in the land has decided that the ACA is constitutional. Over time, it will become considerably more difficult to repeal or replace the law because the public is beginning to embrace a series of ACA benefits that help families, especially women and children. Even with the political theater surrounding the ACA, it is clear that this new law benefits and will continue to benefit families, women and children who not only need eyeglasses and dental work but truly comprehensive healthcare. The best is yet to come.
Note: YWCA USA’s CEO Gloria Lau released a statement after the ruling. “The YWCA applauds the Supreme Court for its ruling and urges the swift implementation of the much-needed benefits of this law. We sincerely hope that the U.S. Congress and the states will fully implement the ACA without further legislative maneuvering to delay these provisions that will benefit every woman and family in the country.” Read the full statement here.