Photo via CNN
by CRYSTAL KIM
Several Asian American civil rights groups praised the Supreme Court’s ruling today to uphold the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s health care overhaul passed two years ago.
“We can now move forward with the hard work of implementing the law and ensuring access to health care for all Americans,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, in a statement.
In a surprise 5-4 ruling, the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four Democratic-appointed justices on the Supreme Court, ruling that the law’s main provision—of requiring Americans to obtain health care coverage, staring in 2014, or pay a tax—is constitutional. Notably, Roberts rejected the legal challengers’ contention that the law imposed a health insurance mandate. Rather, he said it requires those who choose not to have health insurance pay a tax penalty, and such a tax requirement is constitutional.
“The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance,” he wrote. “The federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance.”
As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed to get rid of the law should he be elected, President Obama called the ruling a victory for the American people. “The highest Court in the land has now spoken,” he said. “We will continue to implement this law. And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is re-fight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.”
Meanwhile, the Asian American Justice Center’s Moua said the Affordable Care Act “will greatly benefit close to 2.5 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders across the country who will be eligible for health coverage for the first time by January 1, 2014.”
In addition, she said, one in 10 Asian Americans and one in eight Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders will gain health coverage through the law’s Medicaid expansion alone.
Leaders from the Asian American civil rights groups, who filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the Affordable Care Act, said thousands of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have benefited from the law’s provisions that are already in place. More than 97,000 Asian American and Pacific Islanders up to age 26 have been able to be covered through their parent’s health insurance, for example, and more than 2.7 million Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have received free preventive services from their current health plans since the passage of the overhaul in March 2010.
The law also bans insurance companies from discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions, and these protections will be extended to adults in 2014.
Dr. Ricky Choi, an Oakland-based physician and supporter of the Affordable Care Act, applauded the court’s decision. “This ruling confirms that our country is moving toward an orientation towards prevention and access to health care for all Americans,” he told iamKoreAm.com.
An estimated one-third of Korean Americans do not have health insurance, reflecting one of the highest uninsured rates of any ethnic group. Also, high rates of Korean Americans do not get preventive services, like colon cancer screening and mammograms, said Choi.
“This [health care law] provides patients the security in knowing that they can get the health care they need,” he said.
Choi advised Korean Americans to visit www.healthcare.gov to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and how the new changes will personally affect them.