Here’s what’s at stake for the Affordable Care Act, and for millions of Americans, as the Supreme Court considers its ruling on whether to strike down the law or parts of the law:
Because of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that enables young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26, [Sarah] Adkins received health coverage just as her kidney was shutting down from an untreated kidney stone.
She hadn’t been able to find a full-time job with benefits after graduating from college nearly two years earlier. Without health insurance, the freelance graphic designer had avoided treatment for her chronic kidney stones — even painfully trying to pass a stone herself in a moment of desperation.
After the Affordable Care Act took effect in September 2010, Adkins was able to go on her father’s plan and have emergency kidney surgery. “The doctor told me my kidney was shutting down and if I continued to avoid treatment, I could have died. I was only 24,” she said. [...]
Less than a quarter, or 24%, of workers between the ages of 19 and 25 were offered health insurance by their employers in 2010, down from 34% in 2000, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, an independent public policy organization. [...] Nationwide, the average premium per person for an individual policy was $ 2,580 a year in 2010, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
This age group is often castigated for their attitude of invincibility, for being free-riders in the insurance system that the rest of society pays for. The reality is that many of these young people, often drowning in student loan debt, are lucky to find any job, much less one that offers benefits. They roll the dice, like so many Americans are forced to, and take the chance that they won’t get something like a kidney stone that could lead to kidney failure. That they don’t get in a car wreck on the way to work. That the tooth they haven’t been able to take care of doesn’t become infected.
It could be a Sarah Adkins, or it could be Susan Gardner’s daughter, born with a serious heart defect that has only been more complicated by the necessity of having to worry about how to pay for the treatments and procedures and drugs that give her a normal life.
Either way, these are representative of the lives that the Supreme Court will hand down a sentence on in a few months. Because that’s what it really is, when you come down to it, whether or not tens of thousands of uninsured Americans will be sentenced to death because of a lack of health insurance.