Loss of ACA protections during pandemic could increase disparities

Without the ACAs pre-existing conditions protections, many Americans could lose health insurance due to the pandemic.

Many Americans could find themselves uninsured as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic if the pre-existing conditions found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are no longer available.

According to a news release, a study performed by the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) found that one-third of the more than 7,500 COVID-19 patients treated at U.S. community health centers between March and October 2020 did not have a pre-existing condition prior to contracting the disease.

A significant portion of the study sample was made up of people of color with 51 percent being non-Hispanic Asian, 36 percent Hispanic, and 28 percent non-Hispanic Black. The study notes that because these populations experienced higher unemployment than Americans as a whole in 2020 this puts them at a higher risk of losing employer-sponsored health coverage.

"If COVID-19 is considered a pre-existing condition and health insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions is curtailed, the situation would be made worse, and health disparities could increase," Nathalie Huguet, Ph.D., the study's lead author, says in the release.

President Joe R. Biden has already started taking actions that could rollback moves from the previous administration which could impact health care coverage.

In a January executive order, Biden directed federal agencies to examine rules and policies which limit access to health care, such as:

  • Policies that undermine health care access for those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Demonstrations and waivers under Medicaid and the ACA which reduce coverage or undermine the program, like work requirements.
  • Policies that undermine the Health Insurance Marketplace or other markets.
  • Policies that make it difficult to enroll in Medicaid and the ACA.
  • Policies which limit affordability of coverage including for dependents