Editor's Column - July 2012

I hope everyone managed to stay cool and have a safe Fourth of July. Those of us with spinal cord injuries are here to spread the news on the results of carelessness during so many of our summer activities. Have fun, but be careful, and stay safe.

The recent Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) is being seen as a critical milestone for the law and one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions in decades. The decision allows almost all of the AHCA to continue to unroll its far-reaching changes to healthcare in the US. The law was challenged because many states considered the mandate requiring everyone to purchase health insurance to be unconstitutional. They brought suit under a commerce clause, saying that Congress could not mandate people to buy health insurance or anything for that matter, and then impose a penalty upon those who don’t comply. The real upset, for those opposed to AHCA, is that Chief Justice John Roberts, one of the more conservative justices, ruled that it is constitutional for the government to impose a tax under the commerce clause and that the so-called penalty was nothing more than a tax.

The Obama administration’s defense lawyers claimed the mandate is necessary to allow other provisions of the health care law to function. The administration also presented an argument that childless households, while they don’t have to pay a penalty for not having children do pay a higher tax rate. In other words, those that don’t have children pay a higher income tax rate and those that don’t have insurance will essentially pay a higher tax rate for the healthcare the government provides. AHCA will also overhaul how insurance is sold, using new insurance exchanges and preventing anyone from being denied or charged extra for pre-existing conditions.

Only one element of the AHCA was struck down by the court, and that was in their ruling that the federal government could not penalize individual states for not participating in the Medicaid expansion. Each state will still receive the same Medicaid subsidies they are receiving today. The states that expand their Medicaid programs to include low-income and middle-class insurance programs would be reimbursed 100 percent for those programs in the first two years and no less than 90 percent thereafter. Each state, then, has a fair and free choice to participate or not to participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program.

For the majority of employed people, healthcare insurance won’t change dramatically, at least in the near term. But it’s important to remember how it is still the minority of people with disabilities who are employed full-time and receiving insurance benefits at work. That’s something that must change.

I spent a day at the Ramsey County Library June 27 attending the employment disclosure forum. I really hope that the organizers will continue this conversation as a series and make it available to more people with disabilities. It was extremely enlightening and generated questions for which lots of individuals there could provide answers. The only way that we will increase the employment of people with disabilities is through these kinds of forums that educate us on choices and our rights in the workplace. It’s just so important for all of us to feel like we have something to contribute and a way to participate in the same work as those without a disability. We deserve not only to contribute, but to earn a living and become part of mainstream America.

Plans are in process for the Charlie Smith award banquet and we are accepting nominations now. We have a new process where nominations go directly to the Access Press board of directors’ mailbox (and the board members are the only ones who can verify that a nomination has been received.) There are a number of great people in this community who deserve your nominations. Please feel free, too, to nominate an individual that you have previously nominated. You can get the nomination form on our website at www.testing.accesspress.org or call the office and we will mail one out to you.