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'It would be devastating': Former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett on possibility of the Supreme Court overturning the Affordable Care Act

Valerie Jarrett, Former Obama advisor and author of 'Finding My Voice', joined Yahoo Finance live to discuss what it would mean if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act and her thoughts on the Georgia runoff election.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. We continue our discussion with Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama, about President-elect Joe Biden. And we want to talk about what happened today with the ACA in the Supreme Court. The Republicans, when they had control of the House and the Senate, were unable to repeal the law, as they kept promising. And today, that became an issue with the justices saying, you know, you could have done this, but you didn't. So are you willing to place orders as to how the high court may rule on this question of the mandate, once again?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, I certainly hope they uphold the law. Because I think about the 20 million Americans who will lose their insurance, who currently are insured through the exchanges, the 100 million Americans who have pre-existing conditions, that number that has ticked up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the young people who get to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26, the women who get preventive care, the many, many benefits that the Affordable Care Act has and how devastating that would be to so many American families if it's thrown out. And I think what the questions, ironically, from the appointees of President Trump on the court today, was, well, if Congress truly intended to throw the whole thing out, they had the opportunity to do that. And so is it appropriate for us to do that when what Congress did was basically just remove the mandate?

And so it'll be interesting. I never read too much into oral arguments because I've seen the court argue too many cases where they came down on a different side. But it would be devastating. And it's just so profoundly troubling that 10 years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act we continue to hear the Republicans say repeal it and replace it. But not once have they ever articulated, replace it with what?

SEANA SMITH: Valerie, you mentioned there the fact that they're doing this in the middle of a pandemic. Millions of people have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. And with that, they've lost their health insurance. Would eliminating the ACA-- it doesn't look like it at this point-- but if they were to vote in favor of that, would eliminating the ACA inflict-- I mean, what type of shock could that inflict on the health care system?

VALERIE JARRETT: It would be devastating. If you think about the people who receive health insurance through their employer, COBRA is expensive, and it runs out. And so then what are they to do? And without thinking of those families, without considering what that would mean to lose that important safety net, it's just reprehensible. It's cruel. And I think that the Republicans have to be held accountable for that.

And the irony here is also that at the same time as they're in court today, arguing before the Supreme Court to repeal the entire act, you have President Trump saying, oh, don't worry. I signed an executive order that will protect people with pre-existing conditions. That's not how it works. It would have to be a law passed by Congress in order to require that of the insurance companies. In the meantime, as you pointed out, people would lose their insurance, and they would have a degradation of the coverage that they do have.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Many of us have friends who are Democrats. Many of us have friends who are Republicans. And we keep hearing from the Democrats this discussion about the middle of the country and not winning those counties and the need to listen to people in those counties. As a Democrat-- I'm assuming you're still a Democrat.


ADAM SHAPIRO: How do you react to that? Shouldn't the people in those counties also listen to Democrats?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, first of all, President-elect Biden did listen, which is why he won Michigan and Wisconsin and Illinois and Pennsylvania. So in many of the parts of our country where-- which are traditionally-- or at least in the last election went red, President-elect Biden has expanded the map, not to mention Georgia, Arizona, Nevada. These states are clearly feeling his message.

And what he has said is not only will he speak to them, but he will speak to the entire country. And that's why he received more votes than any other president has ever received who's run for office. I think he is in touch with the pulse of our country from shore to shore and certainly in the middle.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Valerie, I want to ask you just about what we're seeing from the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents-- and oftentimes, it's mothers-- are struggling during the pandemic. We have women exiting the workforce to care for their children. We can see it here, month after month, in the labor numbers. We know that this is an issue that was in President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan, but what do you believe should be done? Or what's the best way to attack this issue and better support working parents at this time?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, look, there are a few things that I've been arguing for for a long time that the pandemic has laid bare. We should have a national paid leave policy for every American, not just dependent upon the voluntary decision by individual companies. We should have a national paid sick leave policy. We should have far more affordable childcare.

The fact that so many working families are trying to either look for a job-- and then what do they do with their children if they're not back in school? Or they're trying to homeschool their children if the schools are not open. From early childhood education to college, it's wrecking havoc, and it has been going on for months and months and months needlessly.

And it is unconscionable to me that the United States, supposed to be the leader of the world, has had more deaths, proportionately, than every other country. What is going on with that? And we know our small businesses are closing. We know millions of Americans are-- have either lost their jobs. Our essential workers are being put in harm's way.

And so this is another reason why it was so important for President-elect Biden on his first day-- work day-- to signal and-- as a part of his transition-- that we-- if we don't get our hands around this pandemic, it will be very difficult to rebuild our economy. And we know that the economy is disproportionately stressing on women and people of color.

And so that's why his commitment is we've got to get our arms around this virus. We have to close those disparities in health outcomes, and we have to jump-start our economy. He wants to raise wages for those who are in the home health care field, for example. He's very supportive of unions, of worker's rights, worker's benefits. These are all issues that he will be taking a hard look at during his campaign, as he did in the transition, looking more specifically at programmatic changes, and then once he's sworn in.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Which of those issues, if not all of them, do you see being front and center in the Georgia runoff? And what advice would you have for the two Democrats who are in those runoffs against the Republicans?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, I'm very confident that we have an opportunity to win both of those seats. A great deal of thanks goes to Stacey Abrams and the many organizations that worked either to try to get her elected governor or in her-- in the wake of that election being stolen from her-- who worked to make Georgia a fairer, bluer state. And so I think that the issues that are going to be the ones that are essential in that election are the ones that people are talking about right this minute around their kitchen counter.

Is my job safe? If I've lost my job, am I going to find a new job? Are my kids going to be in peril if I send them to school? If I keep them at home, a I going to be able to work from home? When will life return to normal?

And how do we make sure, as President-elect Biden has said time and time again, that we don't just build back to where we were, but that we build back better in a way that nobody gets left behind. And that is a message to those folks who have traditionally suffered disproportionately whenever there is a downturn in the economy. And it is with them in mind that I know that the Biden-Harris team will feel accountable. And I hope that in Georgia, we'll be having the outcome of the election be for the people who care about those issues, and those are the Democrats.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Valerie, right now, we have a Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a woman as vice president. I'm curious just to get your take because you're a leader. You're a role model for women really around the world as one of President Obama's closest advisors. For a woman and a woman of color now be Vice President-elect, what message does this send to the millions and millions of Americans?

VALERIE JARRETT: Well, it lets them know that in this land of opportunity, that if you are given a fair shot, if you are well loved and supported, that anything is possible. She has always been a glass-ceiling-breaker with every job that she's had. She's always had to compete on an uneven playing field, which is still, obviously, a challenge for women today. But her success sends a message of what is possible with hard work and resilience and determination and a country that is more than ready for her.

And I would say this to you, on a personal note, it's not just the little girls around our country of all colors who will look up to her as a role model. But my grandson is both Black and Indian. And I love the fact-- he's only 15 months old-- but that he will grow up thinking it's perfectly normal to have someone who looks literally just him, who is a woman, in a position of power and influence.

And is it an extra responsibility to be the first? You betcha it is. But I can tell you, President-elect Harris is more than up to the challenge. And I think it's a game-changer for our young people. And look, my mother is 92. She went down and voted in person in Chicago in the midst of a-- COVID-19 because the symbolism of voting for this incredible woman was so important to her.

So it's women and girls of all ages and men and boys of all ages, of all genders. It's a game-changer. And I'm just so incredibly proud of her, and I know how well she will represent as the first. And the final point I would make on this is for-- to quote her when she quotes her mother to say, she may be the first, but she will not be the last.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Valerie Jarrett, there are so many accomplishments in your life. We can't go through all of them. But former senior advisor to President Obama and author of "Finding My Voice," thank you so much--

VALERIE JARRETT: You're welcome.

ADAM SHAPIRO: --for joining us here at Yahoo Finance Live.