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J’cans in US debate health insurance - Controversial Affordable Care Act could determine outcome of Nov 3 elections

Published:Saturday | October 31, 2020 | 12:12 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Irwine Clare
Irwine Clare
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Health insurance and the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) is among the issues on which the outcome of the November 3 United States Presidential and Congressional elections hang.

US President Donald Trump is seeking to have the Supreme Court strike down the law and has promised a new replacement, but Jamaicans in the diaspora are sceptical that people will be left without health insurance if the law is repealed.

Irwine Clare, head of the Caribbean Immigration Service in New York, has expressed serious reservations that Jamaican and other Caribbean nationals will end up without health insurance.

“It is crazy to be seeking to have the ACA repealed without any meaningful new healthcare insurance law to take its place,” said Clare.

Retrograde step

He noted that to repeal the law in the midst of a pandemic was a retrograde step.

Clare was participating in a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on issues of concern to the Jamaican and Caribbean communities in the November 3 US elections.

“We have been promised a replacement health insurance law by the Trump administration for the past four years, but no such law has been put forward,” he said.

However, Ainsworth Powell, a former police officer in Jamaica, and a Republican supporter who participated in the forum, said that the administration did not have a plan for a replacement of the ACA.

“His plan calls for allowing people to buy health insurance across states. This will lower the cost of insurance because it opens up competition, and when there is competition, consumers benefit,” he said.

Powell said that the Trump administration would also seek to lower the price of prescription drugs. He decried the individual mandate under the ACA calling it a tax. He said that one should not be taxed to buy health insurance.

Dr Basil Wilson, former professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, argued that the United States was the only major industrialised country without universal health insurance.

“Healthcare is not a privilege but a right and people should be provided with affordable healthcare,” he said.

Wilson said that despite promises, the Trump administration had failed to promulgate new healthcare legislation to replace the ACA if it is repealed by the Supreme Court.

“We have been hearing that a new law will be coming, but there has been no tangible bill brought to Congress,” he said.

Wilson pointed out that the ACA has allowed some 20 million Americans to have health insurance and to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Dahlia Walker-Huntington, attorney-at-law, took issue with Powell, saying that the president and his administration had not set out a plan for new healthcare legislation.

“You have provided information that has not been forthcoming from the president or his administration,” she told Powell.

She pointed to the need for people to have health insurance to ensure that they can access the healthcare system.

“We have no way of knowing that people will still have health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed,” she said.