By Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an estimated two million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) became eligible for new health insurance coverage. Now, that is all under threat by President Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett, who has made it clear she will overturn the ACA if given the chance. This morning a Senate committee sent the nomination to the Senate floor for a vote.
Many AAPIs are small business owners, for example, who got a new avenue for affordable health insurance for themselves, their employees, and their families through the ACA’s health insurance exchanges. This translates into millions of preventative health exams, access to birth control and pregnancy, maternal, and newborn care, and mental health services, as well as coverage for pre-existing conditions.
One week after Election Day, the Supreme Court will be hearing a case on the ACA that could take away our health care, possibly doubling the uninsured rate among AAPIs. Right now, the Senate is rushing to confirm Barrett to the court rather than working hard to pass legislation to help working families struggling in the pandemic. Instead of working to help struggling families and small businesses, they are working to hurt us more through the nomination of Barrett.
We don’t have to wonder how Barrett would rule. She is on the record criticizing the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision to let the ACA stand as well as the tax credits that people use to lower their monthly insurance payments and make coverage affordable. Health coverage and care are critical for every family and that’s clearer now, more than ever. In the short term, the ACA helps us get COVID-19 testing, treatment, and care as AAPI people have been suffering the deadly impacts of the virus at disproportionate rates. In the long term, insurers may consider having COVID-19 as a pre-existing condition in the absence of the ACA’s protections and be able to deny us coverage completely.
Barrett also argued in favor of upholding the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule to turn lifesaving programs against immigrant families. Under this wealth test, certain immigrants could be denied visas if they get assistance from any one of a variety of programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps. No one should be afraid to keep their family healthy or ensure everyone has enough to eat, but that’s what this rule is designed to do — create fear.
Almost a million U.S.-born AAPI children live with immigrant parents in families that get health care through Medicaid. But in the light of the rule, confusing litigation, and fear, a large number of immigrant families decided to forego receiving assistance to buy food and get health care. At the same time, our community is experiencing an unprecedented rate of unemployment in light of COVID-19, leaving us more vulnerable and in need of help. Right now, there are several cases challenging the rule moving through the lower courts and, in time, it is likely they will end up at the Supreme Court.
Every major issue the AAPI community cares about – from health care to immigration to economic security – is threatened by this Supreme Court vacancy and will be affected by whoever fills that seat. An appointment to the Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment, which means that Barrett could serve for decades, and the repercussions will last for generations.
We are less than two weeks away from Election Day, and votes are already being cast for who should nominate the new justice. Yet, next week, the Senate will be voting on whether to confirm her to the position. We must urge our Senators to keep the AAPI community in mind and vote no, and insist that no justice should be confirmed until after inauguration. We need a Supreme Court justice who will protect the rights that we have fought for and Barrett’s record shows us exactly who she is and how she would rule against our lives, our families, and our communities.
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