Thursday, February 19, 2015

HCA's King v. Burwell brief notes dramatic success of ACA for women

Last week, I wrote about the amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case that was filed by Hospital Corporation of America, the nation's largest private-sector provider of medical care. The brief concludes that the arguments of the plaintiffs, who are attempting to strip federal exchange Obamacare subsidies from some 7 million people, defies logic. So far, so good.

A detail of the brief, however, elaborates on a specific policy success of the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange: demonstrable improvements in access to health care for women. As the original brief explains, one of the main goals of passing health care reform was to improve access to care for women. To support the claim that denying subsidies on the federal exchange would defeat the entire purpose of the law, HCA compiled data for its facilities operating in states served by federal exchanges, and noted just how much women with federal exchange insurance are benefiting compared to their uninsured counterparts. The data HCA presents is remarkable: for instance, 77 percent of the oncology care given to patients with federal exchange insurance goes to women. 65 percent of HCA's patients insured on the federal exchange are women, vs. 53 percent of insured patients--suggesting that uninsured women are forgoing care at a higher rate than male counterparts. And women with federal exchange insurance are three times more likely to get recommended breast ultrasounds than uninsured patients. So why does this matter? As Emily Crockett at RH Reality Check says:
The brief draws special attention to the health benefits for women insured through the exchanges because Congress also paid special attention to women’s health issues in the Affordable Care Act—like covering women’s health services as “essential benefits,” or banning the practice of charging women more for health insurance. The Supreme Court case determining the fate of Obamacare hinges on what Congress intended when it wrote the law. If Congress intended to benefit women’s health, HCA argues, it can’t possibly have wanted millions of women to go without the essential care they can only afford thanks to the federal exchange subsidies.
When arguing about whose interpretation of a law is correct, context and Congressional intent matters. The statistics HCA brings to the table prove just how successful Obamacare has been at achieving the intent of improving health care for women. CATO's Michael Cannon, by contrast, would apparently prefer to see poor women die slowly from cancer than allow them to afford insurance.

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