WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 29, 2015) — The Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) on Thursday filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in King v. Burwell, a case challenging the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case has potentially significant consequences for millions of Americans, including the 4.5 million currently insured through the federal health insurance Marketplace because of the ACA’s tax credits.
“King threatens to gut the very heart of the ACA,” said Kathy Ko Chin, APIAHF president and CEO. “If the Supreme Court takes away the law’s tax credits, the result will spell disaster for many people, including hundreds of thousands of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander families who are low- or moderate-income and can’t afford health insurance through any other means.”
The brief details the lack of coverage options and lingering health disparities facing Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (AAs and NHPIs), and the importance of the ACA’s tax credits in helping people get access to care. Prior to the law, nearly one in seven AAs and NHPIs were uninsured and even more were underinsured. The ACA sought to remedy that by substantially expanding access to health insurance for middle- and low-income people through tax credits to make coverage affordable. This is the express purpose of the ACA and supported by the law’s text.
On March 4, the Court will consider the question of whether the ACA’s tax credits are limited only to state-run health insurance Marketplaces. Limiting the ACA’s tax credits only to state-run Marketplaces, as the challengers argue, threatens to erode coverage expansions for AAs and NHPIs in the 34 states that rely on the federal Marketplace. This includes three of the five states with the largest AA and NHPI populations: Texas, Florida and New Jersey. The brief includes stories from people who would suffer life-threatening consequences without coverage, including Sam Hyun H., a Korean American pastor living in New Jersey. Without the ACA’s tax credits, Sam cannot afford coverage and will have to skip needed health care–a dangerous predicament for someone recovering from a heart attack and heart surgery.
APIAHF filed the brief with the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Los Angeles and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, who together with APIAHF comprise Action for Health Justice. APIAHF has partnered with Action for Health Justice to ensure that AAs and NHPIs realize the benefits of the new health law. Sixty-three community and health organizations also signed onto the brief.
“With Action for Health Justice, we have worked across the country to educate and enroll 600,000 in health coverage – people who would otherwise be left out of the system,” said Priscilla Huang, APIAHF senior director of impact strategies. “The ACA has proven to be a necessary step in moving our nation toward health equity and ensuring that all communities have access to high quality and affordable care. A bad outcome in King will erode those advances.”
APIAHF has been an ardent defender of the ACA, including working with policymakers during its inception and passage, as well as ensuring that implementation meets the needs of diverse communities.