The rush to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court might have everything to do with the Trump administration’s efforts to gut insurance reforms during a pandemic.
MICHIGAN—From elderly Michiganders worried about cuts to Medicare to underinsured young people with chronic, expensive diseases; from mothers worried about children whose colds shut down their house during a global pandemic to coronavirus survivors facing a long, hard recovery; from free clinics struggling to support the working uninsured during the pandemic to Michiganders paying exorbitant fees for telemedicine; the costs of staying healthy in the pandemic are a concern across the state.
Michiganders are facing rising health challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, especially those related to the prohibitive costs associated with insurance. At the same time, President Donald Trump has been working to undermine the affordability of health care.
Now, as the Trump administration lawsuit trying to dismantle the health insurance exchanges and protections against higher premiums for pre-existing conditions is bound for the Supreme Court, Trump is poised to further tip that court’s balance in his favor.
After the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Trump and Senate Republicans are pushing hard to appoint and confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett. One Trump aide told Fox News that the administration will act as “knife fighters” to ensure the nominee’s confirmation.
Hearings are set to start in early October and the goal appears to be seating Barrett before the Nov. 3 election. That effort could have many motivations, but one that can’t be ignored is what happens one week after the election.
The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in California v. Texas on Nov. 10. The first case Barrett may sit on would have ramifications for the health of Michiganders during the pandemic.
Tipping the balance of the court will have effects for a generation, and pose a host of serious concerns about what rulings will be made in the terms to come. But confirming Barrett as early as possible would ensure she, and by extension a three-vote Trump-appointed block of justices, will be driving the oral arguments on a case Trump has worked to ensure is found in his favor. It’s possible that the court could, in this case, eliminate the Affordable Care Act, the signature healthcare legislation of former President Barack Obama. Repealing the law has been a constant priority for Trump over the past four years, despite the millions of Americans who have benefitted from the reforms it ushered into place.
“Republicans are desperate to get Judge Barrett confirmed before the Supreme Court takes up this case in November and millions of Americans will suffer for their power play,” Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris said in a statement.
While Barrett hasn’t ruled on any cases involving that healthcare legislation in the past, she did criticize Chief Justice John Roberts for his decision to uphold the act in 2012. She characterized that ruling as distorting the Constitution.
That 2012 decision was 5-4, with Roberts joining the court’s four liberal justices to uphold the legislation. In the court that Barrett would serve on, even if Roberts joined the liberals to protect healthcare reforms, the case would still be 4-5, just in the opposite direction.
That means, for the more than 100,000 Michiganders who have contracted the coronavirus, they’ll be again subjected to higher premiums as a result of their pre-existing conditions. And the insurance exchanges that help nearly a million Michiganders get affordable insurance would cease to exist.
Though Barrett hasn’t even seen a hearing in front of the Senate, as Mother Jones reports Trump is already drawing the connection between her nomination and the end of affordable health insurance reforms passed by his predecessor.
“This is about your health care,” Trump’s opponent Joe Biden told reporters. “This is about whether or not the Affordable Care Act still exists. This is about whether or not preexisting conditions will continue to be covered. This is about whether a woman will be able to be charged more than for the same procedure as a man. This is about Americans’ health care in the middle of a pandemic.”