By Brittany Jablonsky, NFU government relations representative

This morning the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care law passed just over two years ago.

Farmers Union members have always felt that access to affordable, quality health care is the right of all citizens, rural and urban, young and old. In fact, National Farmers Union’s policy supports the “adoption of a single-payer national health insurance program with no deductible and minimal co-pays that provides comprehensive health care services that would include physical, mental and dental care to all Americans.” The ACA, as it stands today, does not achieve this goal. However, it gets us significantly closer.

The law requires all individuals (with financial assistance for those who are unable to afford it) to purchase health insurance in order to ensure we all have access to the affordable coverage to which we are entitled. In order for a universal mandate to effectively bring costs down, all must participate – the healthy and the sick.

Importantly, the individual mandate won’t be effective without the corresponding provision prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions or the provision prohibiting insurance companies from imposing a lifetime limit on coverage. Why? Because individuals with pre-existing conditions and a history of health care needs who are not insured and cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket to obtain preventive care services will have little choice but to get care from the emergency room when they are sick – the most expensive kind of care offered. These costs get passed on and drive up the cost of health care for all.

The ACA is certainly not going to magically fix all of our country’s health care problems. However, it will make – and already has made – fundamental changes to our health care system that will result in more people being able to afford insurance and basic health services. The ACA provides numerous benefits, whether you are fortunate enough to have health insurance, or are one of the more than 50 million Americans who cannot afford it. Full implementation of the law is projected to shrink that 50 million (and rising) to only 18 million uninsured. Upholding the ACA is the right thing for the Supreme Court to do.

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