This June, the Supreme Court will make a decision that is arguably one of the most important in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court and our nation. The court will decide whether or not to uphold President Obama’s Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as “Obama care.” A number of states have launched challenges to the law as unconstitutional and the high court heard oral arguments on the case in March.
If the health care reform law is upheld, despite an onslaught of criticism and legal challenges by conservatives, it will expand healthcare to millions of uninsured people and fundamentally change the way that care is provided in America.
Many Boyle Heights residents live in poverty and these residents would be covered at little or no cost under the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Medicaid serves a large population of low-income people, many of whom would be unable to afford health care otherwise. Many more families would be eligible for this government-subsidized program, as long as their incomes don’t exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level ”“or $30,656 for a family of four in 2012. Other elements of the law help working class and middle class families get care.
According to the California Healthcare Foundation, “ninety four percent of the state’s population will be covered by a health plan, through an employer, a new health insurance exchange market, or expansions to public benefit programs such as Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid program).”
Unfortunately for immigrants in Boyle Heights, those who are here without documentation will not be eligible for these health plans and will likely have to seek care in safety net healthcare systems for the uninsured within Los Angeles County hospitals and clinics, just as they do today.
If the law is upheld, that would be a major win for those of us in the healthcare field who work to ensure access to care that is affordable and more efficient. The Affordable Care Act is not a perfect piece of legislation ”“ but it is a great first step in reforming our inefficient healthcare system. This legislation is a much better alternative to our present patchwork system, which doesn’t provide reliable or affordable care to millions of uninsured Americans.
June will be a monumental month as we learn the fate of our healthcare system.
Victor M. Peña is a Boyle Heights native. He has worked for healthcare organizations in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles Counties. He is currently completing his master’s in Business Administration, with an emphasis in management, and manages a department at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downtown Los Angeles.