Constitutionality of health care act upheld by Supreme Court

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature overhaul of the health care system, was upheld in a Supreme Court ruling on June 28. It requires that most American citizens maintain "minimum essential" health insurance coverage. Those who do not comply will make a "shared responsibility payment" via individual taxes. 

Because the court found this portion of the mandate constitutional, popular statutes such as the coverage of people with pre-existing health conditions and allowing parents to maintain coverage on their children until the age of 26 didn't have to be decided separately.

The court, however, ruled that a provision that would have permitted the federal government to withhold 10 percent of Medicaid funding from states that chose not to comply with the proposed expansion to cover more low-income citizens, is only constitutional if applied only to new, not existing, funding.

ACA being upheld is good new for many Latinos, 32 percent of whom have no medical insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation 2010 report. According to National Council for La Raza, one in three uninsured people in the United States is Latino, and an additional six million Latinos will gain coverage with ACA in place.

In Pennsylvania, ACA has already helped close the Medicare "doughnut hole" gap in prescription coverage, generated $111 million in Medicaid rebates paid to the state by drug manufacturers. It is also estimated that approximately 65,000 people younger than 26 became insured under a parent's plan thanks to that provision. This last certainly is a benefit to our younger-than-the-national-average Latino community.

Improved access to healthcare will, hopefully, knock down high rates of chronic diseases in the Latino population — among them asthma and diabetes.

There is a bittersweet aspect to ACA being upheld, however. An often overlooked provision bars undocumented immigrants even from using their own money to buy insurance in the exchanges set up to assure affordable options.

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