Family Health Care Costs Can't be Subject to Political Whim

A federal ruling Thursday, prompted by House Republicans, would raise the out-of-pocket costs for health care for millions of people in the United States, many who now finally have health insurance for the first time in their life.

The ruling is yet another attack on the health care law by conservatives who want to destroy Obamacare, even if it means blocking families from getting the care they need.

Going to the doctor when you or your child is sick isn't something that can be put off until you can afford it. After rent, food, utilities and other bills, many families simply can't cover the cost of health care. The Affordable Care Act provides subsidies to insurance companies so low-income families don't have to make a choice between food and a doctor visit.

The judge's decision - and just the fact that the House would even bring this lawsuit - shows how deeply disconnected conservatives are from the struggle many families face, even with the ACA, in paying for health care. It is painfully obvious that conservatives in the House are determined to take medical care away from families.

Republicans have been steadily hammering away at the Affordable Care Act, spending untold millions on lawsuit after lawsuit. The Obama Administration has signaled that it will quickly appeal the judge's ruling, which has been stayed until after appeal.

A Gallup poll last year showed that one in three people in the U.S. say they, or a family member, has delayed medical care because of the cost.

People of color and women especially, struggle to afford quality health care, even with health insurance, because of the high cost of premiums and deductibles, according to recent research by the Alliance for a Just Society.

Under the ACA, the government pays insurance companies to reduce customers' out-of-pocket costs, allowing low-income people to get medical attention when they need it, without delay.

In her decision, Judge Rosemary Collyer says the Obama administration went too far by using taxpayer money to help low-income families with medical costs without a vote from the House of Representatives. It's probably not surprising to read that Collyer was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush.

On the other hand, the Obama administration argues that the Affordable Care Act provides the money and it's not necessary to go back to Congress each year for approval. But Collyer writes in her decision: "That is Congress' prerogative."

It's dangerous to leave the health and the lives of families up to the political whims of Congress. If the ruling stands, that's exactly what would happen. It would spell financial ruin - or worse - for millions of families.

Fred Azcarate, a co-executive director of People's Action, has decades of experience as an organizer and leader around health care and other social and economic justice issues. He shares my frustration that House Republicans are so willing to spend taxpayer money to limit access to medical care.

Azcarate has led national mobilizations exposing waste in the health insurance industry and worked on many rounds of health care reform alongside labor and community organizations nationwide.

"At a time when so many working families are struggling to pay out-of-pocket costs for health care, it is outrageous that Republicans would block the federal government from lowering costs for families," said Azcarate.

"The House Republicans are so politically intent on wrecking the Affordable Care Act that they don't care if they take families down with it," he said.

Health care for all is a right - not something subject to Congressional prerogative or Congressional whim.