The Affordable Care Act has helped crime victims by giving them access to health insurance. If the law is overhauled by Congress, state victim compensation programs may have to pick up the slack, reducing their ability to aid victims in other ways.
When Washington State expanded health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of thousands gained access to health insurance. It also allowed the state to better serve crime victims. That’s because people haven’t had to rely as much on Washington’s Crime Victims Compensation Program, which helps reimburse medical costs and other expenses for victims of crime statewide, The Marshall Project reports. These programs across the nation are payers of last resort, meaning people who are victims of crime must first exhaust all their options, including health insurance, before turning to the state for help.
Because of this, victims compensation funds have been vital for those with little or no insurance. With the advent of the ACA, however, the funds in some states have had to pay out far less for medical and dental bills, allowing the compensation funds to help victims in other ways. With the effort by Republicans to repeal and replace the ACA, it’s not clear if the savings for compensation funds will continue. In Washington, health-related payments from the funds have dropped by half, going from about $5 million in fiscal year 2014 to about $2.3 million in fiscal year 2016. After the ACA’s implementation, lawmakers increased the maximum benefits from $50,000 total per victim to $190,000, including up to $150,000 in medical benefits. Other states have reported similar outcomes. The federal Office for Victims of Crime says 17 states reported a reduction in the number of victims compensation claims in fiscal year 2015. Eight states recorded recent decreases in claims or payments to crime victims that were likely attributable, at least in part, to expanded health care access under the ACA.