President-elect Joe Biden condemned "cruel and needlessly divisive" attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act hours after the Supreme Court heard opening arguments in a case from Donald Trump and Republican allies to dismantle the landmark healthcare law.
"This doesn’t need to be a partisan issue, it’s a human issue," Mr Biden said in remarks from Delaware on Tuesday.
The future of US healthcare – and insurance coverage for millions of Americans who lost their employer-back plans following mass layoffs and business closures in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – emerged as a central campaign issue in the presidential race.
But the president has insisted that while he is determined to repeal the ACA, the signature health legislation from the former vice president under Barack Obama, he has repeatedly promised a replacement, but failed to produce one, jeopardising covering for millions of Americans whose health plans are tied to the law.
He also has promised to ensure health coverage protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions – the ACA prevents insurers from barring patients from healthcare plans for previous medical history. But the president and his Republican allies in Congress have not authored any meaningful legislation to do so.
Meanwhile, the administration has sought to dismantle the law in its entirety at the Supreme Court.
“Let's be absolutely clear about what's at stake,” Mr Biden said. "The consequences of the Trump administration's argument are not academic or an abstraction. For many Americans, they're a matter of life and death in a literal sense."
He said the president’s effort to “bypass the will of the American people” is "simply cruel and needlessly divisive."
“Vice president-elect [Kamala Harris] and I, we're going to do everything in our power to ease the burden of healthcare on you and your families, I promise you that,” he said.
The president-elect intends to expand the law, including lowering the costs of prescription drugs and adding a “public option” that could enroll lower-income Americans priced out of the ACA marketplace.
On Tuesday, justices on the Supreme Court appeared unconvinced by the plaintiffs’ argument that a zeroed out tax penalty for the ACA’s individual mandate – which requires Americans to obtain insurance – effectively renders the law unconstitutional.
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