On Tuesday, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). This provision requires that a person purchase minimum health coverage or face a modest monetary penalty beginning in 2011.
The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by Pat Robertson challenged the provision on grounds that it violates the constitutional rights of those who do not wish to purchase insurance for religious reasons.
Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor said that the requirement would help diffuse health care costs by distributing the costs more equitably amongst Americans. “People who make a decision to forego health insurance do not opt out of the health care market. Their action is not felt by themselves alone. Instead, when they become ill or injured and cannot pay their bills, their costs are shifted to others. Those costs – $43 billion in 2008 alone – are borne by doctors, hospitals, insured individuals, taxpayers and small businesses throughout the nation.”
Currently under the ACA, children under 26 years of age can receive insurance through their parents’ coverage, the donut hole for seniors is closing, and certain preventive procedures, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and pap smears, no longer require a co-payment or other direct costs. Under the ACA, private insurance plans beginning on or after August 1, 2012 will also cover an annual well-woman visit and a variety of specific health screenings and counseling, such as for domestic and interpersonal violence, gestational diabetes, cervical cancer, HIV and STIs, as well as all FDA-approved contraceptives, breastfeeding support, lactation services, and supplies. President Obama signed the final version of the Affordable Care Act in March. The final law will eventually add coverage for 32 million people, increasing access to family planning and preventive care.
Associated Press 11/8/11; White House Blog 11/8/11