A coalition of healthcare advocates worry an effort to overturn former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, could upend the state’s healthcare system.
Georgia is among 18 states suing to block the law. Oral arguments in the case were held Tuesday in federal court in New Orleans.
“Eliminating the ACA would ripple across Georgia’s healthcare system and across the nation’s healthcare system. It’s embedded in every aspect of health coverage and healthcare at this point,” said Laura Colbert with consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future.
Colbert said the law provides all kinds of protections that consumers have come to expect, such as the one preventing health insurance companies from denying people with pre-existing conditions.
It also provides health insurance to lots of people. Almost 460,000 Georgians picked healthcare plans through Obamacare exchanges during the last open enrollment period. Nationally, more than 11 million people signed up for coverage.
“If this lawsuit goes forward and is successful, all those protections are gone, hundreds of thousands of people will lose healthcare in Georgia, and the market will be in complete disarray,” said state Representative David Dreyer.
In the event a court does overturn the law, Dreyer worries the state wouldn’t have the monetary resources to quickly respond, provide health coverage, and stabilize insurance markets.
At issue in the case is the penalty for those who violate the law’s individual mandate, which requires people to buy insurance. Congress eliminated it in 2017.
Last December, a federal judge in Texas said that made the law unconstitutional. 20 mostly Democratic states and the U.S House of Representatives appealed that decision.
“We believe the Court will uphold our position that the ACA is unconstitutional,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in a written statement.
His office joined the effort to strike down the law in February 2018, calling it “overt form of federal overreach.”
In the short term, Carr says he believes the court will protect those currently enrolled in Obamacare health plans.
And in the long term?
“We will fight to make sure federal and state legislatures provide a constitutionally sound solution that protects those with preexisting conditions, provides greater accessibility and real affordability and leads to better healthcare outcomes,” Carr said.
A decision is expected later this year. The case could eventually be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.