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The Supreme Court’s Ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Today, June 28, I’m attending the Intercultural Cancer Council’s (ICC) Biennial Symposium on Minorities, the Medically Underserved & Health Equity. This meeting is full of professionals focused on serving indigenous, poor and various racial and ethnic groups that face health disparities, and thousands of young women diagnosed with breast cancer fall into this category

As I was sitting in a general session this morning along with 700 professionals and students all discussing health equity across this great country – the Supreme Court announced that it upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often referred to as Obamacare.

The spread of information started with the session’s moderator reading CNN’s statement that the personal mandate had been struck down. The impact of this news was felt throughout the room and could only be summarized as a sense of disappointment. The moderator proceeded to ask a panelist to reply to the news. As that reply concluded, someone in the audience interrupted by reading that CNN just corrected its initial report and read (from her phone of course) that the legislation was indeed upheld by the Supreme Court. Even more interesting, the moderator used the opportunity to shift the conversation and engage new responses from the panelists. The room filled with energy and excitement immediately. As panelists began to reply, professionally and informatively, one of the meeting’s founders (I think it was Lovell Jones, PhD), abruptly came to the microphone to inform the moderator that the feeling in the room is that “the people” need a pause to acknowledge this moment in history – and the applause was so overwhelming that it almost brought me to tears.

Let’s agree that health care in this country is extremely complex and no solution will ever be perfect (or inexpensive). There was a very interesting dissent to the ruling that expressed concern about how this will delay a truly equitable and applicable national health care system for all citizens. And, I’m sure there are many other opposing positions. I haven’t yet read the actual ruling, but the impact of upholding the Affordable Care Act for young women with breast cancer means that as of 2014, no group health plan or new individual plan will be able to exclude them or charge them a higher premium because they have had breast cancer. It also means that starting in 2014, all annual benefit limits will be eliminated. There will no longer be a lifetime cap on the dollar amount of services that a person can receive in their lifetime.

Will this ruling help YSC as it strives to reach and better serve all young women affected by breast cancer? I don’t yet know. But I do agree with one sentiment that was shared today, “If we don’t take care of those who are most vulnerable, we jeopardize the health of everyone."