By Susan Lyon
With the recent decision by the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Texas in Texas v. Azar, our economy is at risk. Partisanship is overriding common sense and the will of the people, allowing one party to exact political revenge on the other through any means necessary.
The court’s decision, announced on Dec. 14, invalidates the Affordable Care Act — colloquially known as Obamacare — and pushes our healthcare system to the brink, threatening millions of lives, removing a linchpin of economic stability, and putting hundreds of thousands of small businesses like mine in peril.
My husband has Parkinson’s disease. Thanks to the protections in the ACA, he’s insured, he’s healthy and he is a vital part of our business. But with the ACA in jeopardy after the court’s decision, including its strong protections for persons with pre-existing conditions, our future hangs in the balance because one of us is at risk for being denied insurance due to a medical condition.
Our hand is being forced and we must choose between two awful options:
My husband can stop working and take disability for the next decade or so until he is eligible for Medicare. This would not only mean a significant adjustment to our earnings and a cruel blow to my husband’s quality of life, it would do exactly what Republicans say they don’t want: take a productive contributor to the private sector and turn him into someone who relies on state support.
Or I could step away from our business to find a new job with private insurance that would also cover my husband. Even then, there are no guarantees. Would I find work? Would they cover my husband with his condition? How many hours would I have to work on the side for us to qualify?
For my family, the personal repercussions of the court’s ruling are frightening. The implications for our business are uncertain, but they certainly aren’t positive. We could end up losing talented employees, lured away by larger corporations with deeper pockets and access to more cost-effective large group plans. We could be forced to downsize if my husband or I have to take extended or permanent time away from the business. It’s not out of the question that we might have to sell or close our firm.
My husband and I started our business 28 years ago, decades before the ACA was put into place. In our first years we alternated — one of us worked a day job and the other worked at our business so we had affordable health insurance. It was tough going, but there wasn’t much of an alternative. We built up our business as time went on, but I have no doubt we would have gone further faster, if we didn’t have to make a choice between being insured and dedicating ourselves full time to the business. With this ruling, we’re going back to making those same decisions.
Critics of the ACA often cite the powers of the market as a cure-all for our insurance system. Unfortunately, in the case of health insurance, the market can’t fix everything. As a businessperson, I’ve been solving problems for nearly three decades. And as someone who works closely with health care professionals and has navigated the health care system for myself and my employees, I know that without a targeted role for government in the industry—ensuring healthy people participate and those with pre-existing conditions aren’t needlessly excluded—the insurance market becomes a problem that can’t be solved by the market alone.
Undermining a functioning health care system instead of improving it directly hurts the rest of our market economy, and it’s particularly hard on small businesses. Millions of people in our country will face a similarly bleak future as Americans struggle to find the basic health care we all deserve. In the meantime, insurance profits will soar as they insure only the healthy, guaranteeing insurance premiums paid in exceed health expenses covered. And in turn, businesses will close and jobs will be lost. Worst of all, lives will be lost, needlessly, as our political leaders once more ignore the will of the people and drag American productivity and industry backward instead of forward.
Susan Lyon is principal and managing director of Lyon & Associates Creative Services, a La Jolla-based firm specializing in commercial film production for clients in technology, life sciences and health.
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