The Supreme Court may be inching closer to killing off Obamacare, the health care law that Republicans have been seeking to overturn for more than a decade.
The court on Tuesday hears arguments in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, and with new conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett on board.
At stake is the health insurance covering close to 21 million Americans. Between the Supreme Court potentially striking a fatal blow, and the dust still settling on a historic presidential election, change appears to be on the horizon for America’s health care system.
Here’s the latest on the battle over the ACA as well as some alternative ways to get coverage if Obamacare is overturned.
Obamacare on the brink
Justice Barrett expands the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to 6-3. And although the controversial health care law has survived numerous attempts at repeal over the past decade, her vote could topple it for good.
In a 2017 article, Barrett criticized a previous ruling that saved Obamacare.
Its end would affect millions of Americans, even those who don’t currently rely on the law for coverage.
The new case comes as many Americans have lost their job-based health coverage due to the coronavirus pandemic and recession. Meanwhile, the ballot counting continues in the election cliffhanger.
The future of health care in the US
During the campaign, President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden laid out very different visions for the future of American health care.
Trump suggested Biden’s plan would put an end to 180 million private health care plans, which the former vice president disputed.
“Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan,” Biden said. “Health care is not a privilege, it’s a right.”
Under Biden’s vision, the ACA would be expanded. Americans could sign up for a government-run health insurance program similar to Medicare, and the current Medicare program would be permitted to bargain down prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
Trump has focused on driving a stake through Obamacare and said during one of the debates that it would be replaced with “a brand new, beautiful health care,” without providing other details.
What to do if Obamacare is repealed
If the Affordable Care Act is struck down, millions of Americans would need to find new health insurance. The law ensures no one can be denied coverage and restricts the kind of information companies can use when deciding what to charge people.
Although the Supreme Court’s decision may not arrive until June 2021, if you’re currently covered under Obamacare it would be wise to start making plans now in case you lose your health insurance.
Here are a few options to consider:
Join your spouse’s or domestic partner’s plan
If you rely on the ACA, you probably don’t have the option of getting health insurance coverage through an employer.
But if your spouse or domestic partner currently has coverage through work, you may be able to sign up for their health care plan.
Ask your significant other to look into the steps involved in joining the company plan, and gather all the required documentation ahead of time if possible. That way you’ll be prepared to make the transition immediately if Obamacare ends.
Sign up for a health sharing plan
Health sharing plans are designed to provide inexpensive coverage to people who share common values and beliefs.
If you join a health sharing plan, you’ll be required to send in a monthly “share” that will be distributed among the other members of the plan who have medical expenses.
It’s important to note that many of these plans are run by religious organizations, and you may be required to make a statement of faith in order to qualify. Additionally, certain health care expenses related to things like smoking, drinking and birth control may not be covered.
Purchase private coverage
Buying private coverage outside of your state’s health insurance marketplace is another option and could potentially become the norm for Americans if the ACA is repealed.
To find the lowest rate on a private policy, it’s wise to spend some time shopping around and comparing quotes from multiple insurance companies.
You can use an insurance comparison site that will sort through hundreds of offers to find you the best rates available in your area. Comparing rates online is free and only takes a few minutes.
Other ways you can prepare
It’s essential to have a backup plan for coverage, but you may need to take some additional steps to ensure your new solution works.
Start putting some money into an emergency fund if you don’t already have one set up. Emergency savings can help offset the cost of any unexpected medical expenses as well as the potential increase to your premium that may result from switching coverage.
Plus, if you stash your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account, it will collect a solid amount of interest and grow, leaving you with more money down the road when you need it.
The next step is to examine your retirement plans, since repealing the ACA would eliminate a number of free services currently covered by Medicare and force seniors to pay more for prescription drugs.
That means Americans will need to allocate more money for medical expenses when planning for their retirement. It’s worth consulting with a certified financial planner who can help you make the adjustment or create a new, personalized strategy based on your current savings and goals.
These days companies even provide convenient online financial planning , so you can prepare for your future without having to leave your living room.