People gather at the Supreme Court to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
People gather at the Supreme Court to honor the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Justice Ginsburg helped over 20 million Americans keep their health insurance, but the Affordable Care Act is back in front of the Supreme Court in November.

On Friday, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Over her three decades on the court, Ginsburg, often known as RBG, fought for gender equality, racial justice, and the rights of unions. But most of all, she understood the importance of affordable, high-quality health care for American families.

The next justice—whether nominated by President Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden—must see the world for what it can be, and not just what it is. Just like RBG did.

During this time of economic turmoil and loss, over 20 million Americans rely on the Affordable Care Act for their healthcare coverage. In California, specifically, nearly 4 million people got health insurance through the state’s Medicaid expansion. And nationally, this law protects the 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. But these folks wouldn’t be so lucky if it wasn’t for RBG.

In a 2012 Supreme Court case, Republicans sued to repeal the Affordable Care Act, arguing the law was unconstitutional. Thankfully, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the law. Ginsburg joined the five-judge majority, and in her concurring opinion, she argued the government could have gone further to provide healthcare coverage to Americans.

As we mourn Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we must think about the thousands of cancer patients in the United States today and honor them by respecting her contributions to the country’s healthcare system. Ginsburg wanted every American to have access to health care. As a society that respects her legacy, we must fight for the causes she fought for. 

It is equally important that our next Supreme Court justice will be a statement on Ginsburg’s legacy. It should not be political. Especially as we navigate our way out of a pandemic, this choice will affect our health. The implications of Ginsburg’s successor are crucial for us to consider, because our families’ lives depend on it.

Obamacare is once again going before the Supreme Court, in a case to be heard on Nov. 10, just one week after the election. A new Supreme Court justice could very well rule this case. And given the deadlocked nature of the court, they could be the deciding vote on health care for millions of Americans and Ginsburg’s legacy.

As a cancer doctor and scientist, I see firsthand how important this law is to patients across the nation, regardless of their beliefs. There’s much to be done in the way we deliver care in America, and our patients rely on us to advocate on their behalf. During this pandemic, we have seen how important it is for our families and friends to get care when needed and have access to accurate information. We understand like never before how vital healthcare access is for every single American.

That’s why I believe, as a nation, we should voice the need to nominate a justice that

understands the importance of healthcare access for all Americans. Our future depends on how we navigate our way out of this healthcare crisis. This is how we do right by America—and best honor RBG.