Like two tired boxers circling the ring and hanging on for a 12-round draw, the Affordable Care Act is once again embroiled in a battle that seems to never end.
Just last week, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional because Congress repealed the tax penalty enforcing the law's individual mandate.
Many legal authorities say the basis for the ruling–that repeal of the financial penalty for failing to acquire health insurance in the Act renders the entire ACA unconstitutional–doesn't hold water. We agree. We believe the ruling is wrong and that it will not be upheld on appeal.
Let's be clear on this: The ruling has no immediate impact on any ACA program and does not give the Trump administration clear authority to alter any ACA program. The decision will be appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and maybe the Supreme Court, which has upheld the law twice. That's good, but some finality would be better.
The American Hospital Association and its members, including Atrium Health, have long supported the ACA. While it is not a perfect piece of legislation, it provides coverage and protections to tens of millions of Americans.
Beyond legalities, we need to look long and carefully at the potential human cost of this litigation. Those who could eventually be affected have names and faces and deserve our support because, after all, we all are patients at some point in our lives. Too many of our friends, family members and neighbors find their well-being threatened when we jeopardize access to comprehensive, affordable health coverage.
These include Americans like Candice, a student with a heart condition who desperately needs to stay on her parents' health insurance. Or Jim, a homeless veteran whose once-frequent visits to the emergency department are now redirected to the right type of care. Many more like them will suffer if the ACA is ever overturned.
Millions of us have a family member with a pre-existing condition, a child under 26 who hasn't yet found coverage, or a spouse whose employer won't provide enough hours to qualify for benefits. We need to end the polarization, work together and find solutions for all sides in these debates.
Part of being a leader is standing up for those who can't do it for themselves. So let's stand up together. Join us as we fight for dignity and respect for our patients. Help us improve their health, elevate their hope and advance their healing. All of them.
So, to our millions of colleagues across the country who are at the bedside of patients every day, we say: Exhale. We don't believe this ruling will prevail. And our call to action to providers of care? Stay the course and keep doing what we do best. It could be well into 2020 before the final fate of the ACA is clear. Let's continue to focus on our patients and our communities and on what they need now.