This is the first post of a five-part series on what the Affordable Care Act means for people with disabilities and how repealing it will affect our community. The series will cover four aspects of the ACA that are especially important to our crew: pre-existing conditions, affordable plans and subsidies, freedom from institutions, and preventative healthcare. This post sets the context and gives a short overview of each topic.

In January 2017, the Republican Party gained control of two branches of the federal government: The legislature and the White House. They have a large legislative agenda, but one goal clearly stands out: repealing the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare,” as it is widely known). Members of the GOP claim they have a mandate to repeal Obamacare and they are following through. Unfortunately, this is not good news for people who have disabilities or any chronic condition.

The ACA has made healthcare available for millions of Americans, and repealing it will have drastic consequences nationwide – especially for people with disabilities. It is incredibly important that we learn about the many aspects of Obamacare and what repealing them will mean for our community. Then, we must fight to keep Affordable Care Act on the books – for the sake of our health, our livelihood, and even our lives.

Understanding the Basics of the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act is a complex law that created a complex system. The main three “pillars” are the individual mandate, a ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, and making healthcare affordable through subsidies, Medicaid expansion and healthcare “marketplaces.”

Before Obamacare’s “individual mandate,” insurance companies didn’t have enough money coming in to cover frequent, large medical expenses – so they turned away people with pre-existing conditions because they deemed us too expensive. Remember, basically all disabilities are considered “pre-existing conditions.”

The individual mandate means everybody pitches in to the insurance pool – even young, healthy people. And a ban on denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions means everybody can get covered. Government subsidies and Medicaid expansion then ensure that those who truly can’t afford insurance are able to get it.

The law also sets many other benchmarks for healthcare plans. These include outlining which services are covered, establishing rules on premiums and co-pays, and setting a lifetime cap on out-of-pocket expenses. Other rules abound – and nearly all of them affect people with disabilities.

Important Aspects of Affordable Care Act for Disabled

What are some of the most important pieces of Obamacare for people with disabilities? Among other things:

• The ACA’s policies make it so that health insurance companies cannot deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition (which basically includes all disabilities). This ensures that those seeking coverage can enroll in a plan so long as they can afford it.

• On the “affording it” note, the ACA expands Medicaid, establishes cost-reducing insurance marketplaces, and provides subsidies to make healthcare more affordable to people nationwide. People with disabilities tend to have lower income than the nondisabled population, so this is incredibly important for us to afford insurance.

•  The ACA also has two major provisions that can liberate people with disabilities from nursing facilities and institutions: it extended the Money Follows the Person initiative and also established the Community First Choice Medicaid Option. Both of these will allow many thousands of people with disabilities to live independently in their communities.

•  And finally, the ACA improved standards for diagnostic medical equipment, expanding access to preventative healthcare and diagnostics. This helps catch medical issues before they become serious problems, preventing hospitalizations and other major medical difficulties.

Repeal of Affordable Care Act Would Decrease Quality of Care

Congress is talking about dismantling the ACA piece by piece or taking away the law entirely. But repealing one — or all — of these aspects of Obamacare endangers people with disabilities nationwide. Already, we are seeing that a repeal would leave around 30 million Americans without health care coverage. It would also drastically increase costs and decrease quality of care for those who keep their coverage. The entire system would be a disaster.

Before Obamacare, the healthcare system was extremely difficult for people with disabilities: plans were too expensive, healthcare wasn’t comprehensive, and some people were outright turned away from insurance plans because of pre-existing conditions. Others were simply stuck living in institutions because of age-old policy and a lack of supports. And important services were hardly guaranteed or accessible in a way that helped truly keep people healthy long-term. If those in Congress follow through on their promise to repeal the ACA, we risk going back to those situations and endangering lives in the process.

This series will cover four main issues of Obamacare and what repealing them will mean for our community. The first is preventing insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Second, we’ll cover affordable options and subsidies so that people in financial stress can truly afford their healthcare. Third, we will look at the main aspects that are freeing people from institutions and allowing them to live in the community. And finally, we will cover accessibility standards for preventative care and diagnostics to address health issues before they get out of hand. There are many more parts of Obamacare that help our community, which makes it all the more important to keep the ACA on the books.

If you would like to help save the best parts of the Affordable Care Act, go to United Spinal Association’s website to take action now!