The Affordable Care Act is accomplishing its goal of extending affordable healthcare coverage to the uninsured as well as making coverage more secure for those who have insurance. Since the law was passed five years ago, we are seeing more people receiving the care they need and fewer struggling to pay for it. This country cannot afford to go backward now.
Ascension advocates for a compassionate and just society—that means healthcare equality and equity for every American, where access to healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and is not dependent on the state in which you live. However, an unfavorable decision in the U.S. Supreme Court case King v. Burwell would be a threat to this progression of healthcare in America. If the court decides that tax credits will be available only through exchanges that were established in the states, 9.3 million Americans could lose access to these subsidies that make healthcare affordable for many low-income individuals.
At Ascension, our focus always has been to provide personalized healthcare to all persons with special attention to those who are struggling and most in need. The healthcare law has helped us to serve those who might not have had insurance coverage before, but now do because of the ACA. At our 1,900 sites of care including 131 hospitals and more than 30 senior care facilities in 23 states and the District of Columbia, our patients remain our focus—and access to affordable healthcare for all is at the core of our mission.
While we are hopeful that the Supreme Court will rule to protect and preserve the integrity of the ACA, we are aware of the devastating and disturbing consequences the loss of more than $28 billion in federal tax credits nationwide would bring. The subsidies must remain intact as a key structural feature of the ACA if we wish to see all Americans receive the quality care they deserve, not just those in the 16 states where the tax credits would be upheld.
The consequences of eliminating the tax credits would be severe, for both consumers and providers, ultimately jeopardizing the sustainability of the individual insurance market both inside and outside of the marketplaces established by the ACA. Healthy consumers would be likely to stop paying for coverage, as would those who cannot afford to pay for coverage without tax credits. There would be no choice but for insurers to raise premiums and for costs to everyone to increase.
That is the adverse reality we face should the high court rule in favor of the plaintiffs in the case. We call on Congress to take immediate action in the event of a ruling against the subsidies to preserve them for eligible individuals, help transition the marketplace to minimize impact on patients, and maintain the integrity of the ACA. A recent study found more than six in 10 individuals say Congress should pass a law to ensure people in all states are eligible for subsidies. Let's move forward, not backward—so we can keep healthcare coverage available for our fellow Americans who need it most.
Anthony Tersigni is president and CEO of St. Louis-based Ascension.