As the Supreme Court composition battle rages on, millions of Latinos fear losing their health coverage amid the pandemic.
The fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is, once again, in the hands of the Supreme Court. On November 10, a week after the presidential election, the tribunal is set to hear arguments on a constitutional challenge to the legislation from Republican attorney generals.
The stakes are even higher in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and President Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat before the election.
“He doesn’t want to crush the virus,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said to NPR in reaction to the nomination. “He wants to crush the Affordable Care Act.”
RELATED: Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Will Impact Latinos for Generations. Here’s Why You Need to Pay Attention.
The ACA, which extended health care coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured Americans, was one of the topics on Tuesday night’s contentious presidential debate between Trump and Joe Biden.
The Democratic nominee—who has said he plans to expand the federal law if elected—warned that Barrett’s appointment could help end the 2010 law, since she has previously opposed it. Trump has claimed through the years that he will replace it, yet he has failed to present a comprehensive plan to do so.
The Real Impact and Fears Among Latinos in Texas
The current challenge to the Affordable Care Act started in Texas, a state in which Hispanics account for 56.1% of COVID-19 deaths, following the national trend of disproportionate impact of the virus on this group. As such, the fear losing their health coverage looms large among Latinos.
Santiago Moran, a 26-year-old Houston resident who recently tested positive for COVID-19, says without the ACA, he would not have been able to afford testing or treatment, and many Latinos would feel a similar blow if it were overturned.
Moran gained health coverage through ACA in 2016, a year in which the uninsured rate for Hispanic adults dropped from 43.2% to 24.8%, according to a CDC study.
“My current plan is covering all the costs,” Moran, a wellness director at Mission Squash, a non-profit that offers after-school programs, told The Americano. “It’s convenient to have that because if not, I’d be paying like $175 per test. That’s just ridiculous for anybody to pay no matter what type of money you make.”
Moran worries about possible reinfection once he returns to work later this month, and not being able to afford getting tested in the future if Obamacare is struck down. A wave of new infections could also be driven by people unable to afford testing without health insurance, he says.
Houston resident Luna Rey, 25, interim executive director at the same nonprofit, says Obamacare was the only coverage option for the small-size organization. Getting her team health insurance is essential, she says, since they work closely with children.
“My biggest concern is what happens if our access to health insurance changes in the middle of a pandemic,” Rey says. “That’s concerning especially when I have staff members that have already gotten sick.”
Rey must now consider an alternative healthcare plan for her and the three staff members she oversees, which she said she is unprepared for.
“It’s something that’s been threatened to happen for four years,” she says. “I’m sure there’s a high possibility that it does get struck down, but at the same time we don’t know what the option after that is going to be. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to find insurance that’s not through healthcare.gov, so it’ll be interesting to see how we navigate that.”
Angela Bonilla, an Austin, Texas resident who works as a cashier at a Texas-based grocery chain, also shares fears of suddenly losing healthcare coverage since several of her coworkers have already tested positive for COVID-19. Bonilla has asthma which, according to the CDC, puts her at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.
“My biggest concern is not getting COVID,” she says, noting that it’s the combination with asthma that keeps her up at night.
Bonilla favors Obamacare for its strong protections for those with pre-existing conditions like her, as well as its mental health coverage. She has been insured since March, but plans to switch to her employer’s health care plan once she is eligible next year. Bonilla said she hasn’t had time to think of other options in the meantime.
“It’s nerve-racking for me, since I just started seeing a psychologist, and if they take that away, how am I going to pay for mental health services?” Bonilla says.
If Obamacare is expanded, Moran would be in favor of better cover for expensive emergency room visits. Even with insurance, he paid over $2,000 out-of-pocket fees for an emergency room visit and ambulance transport following a sports injury.
“With Obamacare, you get what you pay for,” Moran said. “If you want more coverage there is opportunity for that but one doesn’t expect an incident coming up like that. It comes down to what plan fits you best.”