Why Supreme Court Case Makes Such a Difference

(March 2012)

There are many reasons why the health reform law is important to low-income older adults and why the Supreme Court would be wrong to overturn it. NSCLC has been a vocal defender of the law as its challengers advanced arguments that could convince the Justices that it is unconstitutional. When the Supreme Court agreed to consider the so-called “coercion” argument concerning how states must participate in the Medicaid expansion or lose federal funding, NSCLC sounded the alarm.  In columns and blogs, we said that any expansion of Medicaid law since 1965 could be vulnerable to challenge if the justices agree with those who oppose the law on this basis.  The “coercion” theory could be used to end long-standing programs on a massive scale from protections for persons with disabilities to guarantees against discrimination affecting state and local recipients of federal funds.

In addition, if the Court throws out the entire law, then important improvements to how we care for nine million, primarily elderly, dual eligibles may be in jeopardy. Medicare improvements such as wellness care, and the closing of the Medicare Part D donut hole would all go down the drain. Increased access to home and community based services for Medicaid beneficiaries would also be in danger.

In a Supreme Court amicus brief earlier this year, NSCLC argued that provisions which improve care for low-income older adults can and should be found “severable” if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional.

It is extremely important that advocates for low-income older adults monitor the court’s actions on behalf of their clients. It’s clear that a Supreme Court decision to throw out the law would be a devastating blow to the rights of low income older adults to better health, independence and dignity.

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