Despite dozens of attempts to repeal it, the Affordable Care Act has managed to endure for more than a decade.
But on Nov. 10, just a week after the presidential election, the all-encompassing health care law — nicknamed Obamacare after the president who championed it — will face its toughest challenge yet.
The ACA will be back before the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the law on two previous occasions. But this time may be different, particularly if President Donald Trump's new Supreme Court nominee is confirmed and seated in time for the oral arguments.
A ruling to kill the ACA would affect a huge portion of the population, including millions of people who do not currently rely on the law for health insurance. Here’s what you need to know.
Could it really happen this time?
The hearing at the nation's highest court will be the first on the matter since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was a staunch supporter of Obamacare.
Trump has pledged to fill Justice Ginsburg’s seat before the election. The president — who has waged war against the ACA and called it a "disaster" during the first presidential debate — has nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a judge who has criticized a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that saved the health care law.
With Barrett on board, the court could have enough votes to repeal Obamacare.
Although the decision may not come down until June 2021, it’s wise to begin taking steps now to ensure you’ll be financially prepared for any changes.
Understand your options
In addition to establishing the Health Insurance Marketplaces, the ACA ensures no one can be denied coverage and restricts the kind of information companies can use when deciding what to charge people.
You may find it a lot harder to find an affordable policy once your health can be taken into account. Plus, insurers could start dropping coverage for some of the conditions they’re now obligated to include.
If you’re one of the 20 million Americans who could lose your insurance coverage if Obamacare is abolished, it’s important to spend some time researching the other health insurance options available to you.
Sign up for your spouse or domestic partner’s plan
Chances are good that if you’re currently using a Marketplace plan, you don’t have health insurance through an employer. However, if your spouse or domestic partner has a company policy, you may be able to enroll under their health care plan.
Ask your partner to look into the steps involved in signing up for coverage under their employee plan and be prepared to make the transition in the event that your ACA coverage is canceled.
Join a health sharing plan
Another option you might want to consider is joining a health sharing plan: a program designed to provide inexpensive health coverage to people who share the same values and beliefs.
Typically, you’ll be required to send in a monthly “share” that will be distributed among the other members of the plan who have medical expenses.
Many of these plans are run by religious organizations. Keep in mind though that you may need to make a statement of faith in order to qualify, and health care expenses related to smoking, drinking and premarital sex (e.g. birth control) may not be covered.
Buy your own coverage
You also have the option of shopping for private coverage outside of your state's Marketplace — which may become the norm if the ACA is struck down.
To find the lowest rate on a private policy, you’ll want to shop around and compare quotes from multiple insurance companies.
You can use an insurance comparison site that will sort through dozens or even hundreds of companies to show you the best options in your area. Comparing rates only takes a few minutes and is 100% free.
Beef up your emergency fund
Roughly half of Americans under the age of 65 have a pre-existing condition that could cause them to pay substantially higher premiums — or be disqualified from coverage completely — if the Affordable Care Act gets repealed.
These conditions range from high blood pressure to acne and could potentially include COVID-19 and its resulting complications as well.
If you’re concerned that your premium will increase, you may want to start putting some money into an emergency fund now to help you cover the extra cost.
The best place to stash your money is a high-yield savings account, where it will accumulate interest but also be quickly accessible.
Some high-yield accounts pay 100 times more interest than traditional checking and savings accounts and come with little or no monthly fees.
The sooner you start contributing to a high-yield savings account, the more money you’ll have available when you need it most.
Save more for retirement
Dismantling the ACA will also have a profound impact on Americans covered under Medicare.
If the ACA is repealed, Americans aged 65 and older and Americans with disabilities will have to pay more for prescription medications and also start paying for preventive services like wellness visits that were previously free.
It’s a good idea to double check your retirement plan and make sure you’ve got enough saved up to account for any additional medical expenses you may incur post-Obamacare.
To ensure you’re set for the future, you may want to work with a certified financial planner who will build you a personalized retirement plan based on your current savings and your goals.
A few companies even provide convenient online services that allow you to contact your financial planner by email or video chat any time you have a question. That way you can plan for your retirement from the comfort of your own home.