The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday concerning the Affordable Care Act ensures that roughly 198,000 Missourians will continue receiving governing subsidies for health care.
Hours after the decision, supporters of the law held rallies throughout Missouri. Crystal Brigman Mahaney, deputy director with Missouri Health Care for All, spoke in Springfield at First Unitarian Universalist Church.
“Here in Greene County 13,329 residents are receiving health insurance discounts,” Mahaney says. “And for many of these people, the discounts are the only reason they’re able to afford insurance and access health care.”
Missouri is among 34 other states utilizing the federal government’s online health insurance marketplace, or exchange. The court examined specific wording in the Act as to whether states without its own exchange would still receive insurance subsidies.
Mark Leicht, another speaker at the rally, says he and his wife are among the Springfield residents receiving an insurance discount, which makes their coverage affordable.
“Having health insurance allows us to plot our career paths and our lives together without fear of losing access to care,” Leicht says. “Having health insurance discounts means we don’t have to choose between groceries and health care, and it means we don’t have to choose between a job with benefits and a career that we love.”
Padgett Smith, board president of the First Unitarian Universalist Church, says the ruling should be celebrated, but there are still people in Missouri without access to health care coverage.
“We have the means to help these people, and yet those with the power lack the will to help them” Smith says. “To those elected leaders we say, ‘The time for partisan politics is over. The time for shaming and ignoring those who are suffering is over.’ It is time to close the coverage gap to expand Medicaid and to move toward the day when every person has access to quality, affordable health care.”
Signs issued at the event echoed Smith’s sentiments, reading ‘close the coverage gap’ and ‘ACA is here to stay.’
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon used Thursday’s ruling as another reason to expand Medicaid in Missouri and add services to some 300,000 citizens.
Michael Dickerson, of Springfield, came to the rally to show his support for the ruling.
“I believe that health care should be a human right, and I believe the Supreme Court’s decision went in ways toward making it a human right, at least in the United States,” Dickerson says. “I think it would be a shame to take away at least the discounts for affordable health care for millions of Americans, including Missourians that depend upon it.”
The event was lightly attended, but Mahaney says she believes it was likely due to the heat and that the group was unable to predict the timing of the court’s decision.
Other rallies were held throughout the state including in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Joplin.
Several Missouri officials have weighed in on the decision. Many conservative leaders have expressed frustration with the court’s decision, but vowed to continue to fight against the Affordable Care Act.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt says he’ll fight to replace the Affordable Care Act with a patient-centered system, “that lowers costs, increases choices, and provides greater access to quality care.”
Rep. Billy Long of Missouri’s 7th District called the Supreme Court’s decision “puzzling,” and that the ruling is a generous interpretation of what the text of the Affordable Care Act actually says.