Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court has judged that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is constitutional. A five-member majority decided that since the law requires most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a financial penalty to the Internal Revenue Service, the controversial “individual mandate” is valid under Congress’ power to tax. The court also ruled that while the federal expansion of Medicaid described in the law is constitutional, the federal government could not withhold a state’s Medicaid funding if it refused to implement the expanded coverage.
The American Academy of Family Physicians applauded the court’s ruling, saying that “as a result of this decision, more Americans will have access to meaningful insurance coverage and to the primary care physicians who are key to high-quality, affordable health services.”
For Texas, the insurance reforms and Medicaid expansion included in the ACA would expand access to care for 6.2 million uninsured Texans. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the nation at 24.6 percent. Uninsured people are much more likely than people with insurance to delay or forgo needed care. The Urban Institute recently reported that one in four Texans went without needed medical care in 2010 because of cost.
“This decision marks the end of the beginning of the current round of health care reform,” says TAFP CEO Tom Banning. “It means millions of uninsured and the underinsured Texans will have expanded access to care, and now it’s time to redouble our efforts to ensure we have an adequate primary care physician workforce to provide that care for the newly insured.”
Texas faces a severe shortage of primary care physicians. About 18,000 primary care physicians provide care for 26 million Texans, and three of every four Texas counties are designated as whole or partial Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas.
In a prepared statement, AAFP President Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., said the court’s decision cleared the way for many provisions of the law aimed at supporting primary care and improving the efficiency and quality of the nation’s health care delivery system. “The decision allows investment in primary care education and training with improved support for the Health Professions Grants for Family Medicine, funding for teaching health centers, establishment of the Health Care Workforce Commission, and maintenance of scholarships and loan repayment programs in the National Health Service Corps.
“The Affordable Care Act provides a foundation for reforming our health care system, but much work still lies ahead including a permanent replacement for the Sustainable Growth Rate formula and meaningful medical liability reform.”