I had the honor of attending the demonstrations at the Supreme Court today to show support for or against the Affordable Care Act. (Yes, I said honor. I’m a nerd like that and think it is pretty cool to protest right in front of the steps to the Supreme Court, while nine of the most powerful people in the world hold hearings).
Anyway, it should not be a surprise to anyone that I am hugely in favor of the ACA (or Obamacare, whatever you want to call it). I’m a liberal Democrat and feel we should take care of our brothers and sisters in need and help provide for them when they can’t. I also work for an organization in favor of the ACA (in fact my presence at today’s demonstration was ordered by my employers…awesome!). We advocate for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens and they are hugely impacted by this decision. But even more than all of that, how could I possibly be against something I have directly benefited from?
I’m in a really good place employment wise now and have my insurance covered 100% by my employers. My co-pays are low, and I am so, so, so lucky to be a healthy young woman. However, it wasn’t always like this.
Let’s rewind to 2008. I had a routine OBGYN appointment. It went well. Until I got a call several days later that my lab work came back abnormal. I was understandably worried, and was told I would need to get a biopsy done. My doctor’s office was booked for weeks (and apparently not as worried as I was) and I was unable to get in. In the couple weeks that followed I graduated, was immediately kicked off my parent’s health insurance, and relocated to Montana. After moving to Montana, I was without health insurance for three months, as there was a three month probationary period before my employer supplied health insurance kicked in. Irresponsible? Yes. However, I was making a ridiculously small amount of money and couldn’t afford the outrageous costs of buying my own insurance for those three months. Once my insurance kicked in I immediately scheduled an appointment (yes, it was also irresponsible and stupid to wait this long, however I knew I could not afford what I needed to have done without insurance). I went to the doctor, had the screening done and paid my co-pay, which was actually quite high. Something like $75, if I remember correctly. I thought that would be all I’d have to pay, and after getting the results that everything was just peachy (in fact the original abnormal test might have just been an anomaly, or everything cleared up on its own), I didn’t think I’d have to think about this for another second.
I was wrong.
My insurance company didn’t want to cover this procedure because this was technically a follow-up to an already diagnosed condition. I filled out and submitted the paperwork they requested of me, however it was to no avail. They would not cover it. For the visit, the actual examine, testing and results it was right around $800. I remember being absolutely speechless, with tears in my eyes not knowing how I was going to cover this, with already having to pay rent, bills, groceries and astronomical gas prices for my hour each way commute (gas in Montata at this time was nearly $5 a gallon where I lived, and I drove a Ford Explorer…you do the math).
Under the Affordable Care Act I would not have been denied coverage for a necessary medical procedure for a pre-existing condition. I would not have been discriminated against because I was trying to do the responsible thing and take care of my health. I would not have medical costs after one doctor’s visit total over $800, when I was already paying around a couple hundred in insurance costs each month.
Fast forward to summer of 2009. I had moved back to North Carolina after deciding, in a nut shell, that Montana wasn’t for me. I had trouble finding full-time permanent work immediately and ended up working as a lifeguard/pool manager. A job I had during high school and college, and something that was certainly a wonderful saving grace during that time in my life. I was again went without insurance, as I was unable to afford it on my part-time minimum wage salary.
In March of 2010 the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. Almost immediately my wonderful mother called the family’s insurance company wanting to know when certain provisions were going to go into effect (namely the “you can stay on your parents’ insurance until you’re 26” part of the law). Her insurance company was going to embrace that right off the bat (I think there was a grace period for this, so some people didn’t ge the benefits immediately) and my insurance card was ordered. While I never needed it for any kind of emergency care, I cannot tell you how much of a weight was lifted off my shoulders knowing I wouldn’t have to be in a situation like I was in while in Montana again.
This law isn’t just about me and my stories. It is about the millions of people who have directly benefitted from this. Whether the women who will see their cost of health insurance be equal with their male counterparts. Or the 24-year-olds who can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Or the millions who have pre-existing conditions who cannot be denied coverage. So many have benefited form this law, that overturning it would be absolutely devastatingly life changing to many.
I’ll end with this story from a co-worker, who relayed this to a man shooting a documentary today at the SCOTUS rally.
My coworker has a 23-year-old son, who has fallen on hard times and has been battling some extreme depression. Thanks to ACA allowing him to stay on her insurance he is able to get the mental health he needs to get better and get out of his depression.
There are so many more like him. Let’s not turn our backs on them.
I’ve already talked on this blog about how the Affordable Care Act affected my life. I don’t, however, think many people realize how it impacts them or their loved ones (especially those in opposition towards it). While there is little we can do at this point, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome you can still let your elected representatives know how the ACA has affected you (if the Supreme Court rules to uphold the ACA, even parts of it, Congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal it).
The nonprofit I work for has kept our eyes on how overturning this could hurt Americans, with an emphasis on children. Through that research I’ve compiled this list of what will happen if the ACA is overturned tomorrow:
A return of pre-existing coverage exclusions for children and adults
Under the ACA, children could not be denied healthcare coverage due to pre-existing conditions, some of which were developed before they even took their first breath on earth. This is absolutely cruel and gives the families of these children, who are sick by no fault of their own, no protection if extensive care is needed.
Adults are also subject to this too. As I saw first hand, moving insurance companies with being diagnosed with something under one does not mean the second one will cover your condition. Odds are they won’t. Leaving you in hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical debt.
A reduction in coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program
Overturning the law puts at risk federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (also known as CHIP) that was extended through Sept. 30, 2015 to provide states with additional funding to ensure children have access to this program. This puts into risk the coverage of the 8 million children who get their health coverage through CHIP.
An end to the pediatric benefit package that includes oral and vision coverage for all children
The ACA requires coverage of not only basic pediatric services under the new health plans, but also oral and vision needs starting in 2014. Many health plans do not provide coverage for needed child health services, and 12 percent of children have not had a doctor’s visit in the last year. One in four children has untreated tooth decay, which is now the most chronic illness among children. Good oral health must be started early and doing so can lead to the prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also is cost effective for people to have access to dental care, as last year nearly 1 million people went to Emergency Rooms for dental problems that were easily preventable with regular annual exams. Forgoing vision care treatment can also be costly in the long run, as a child’s eyes can deteriorate without corrective lenses. They can also see long-term medical issues, such as headaches, glaucoma, etc.
An end of the effort to improve quality care for children
The law develops children’s quality priorities and promotes children’s quality measurements and reporting to improve care. A recent study found that children receive recommended care less than half of the time.
A denial of coverage to families without employer-based care
The law provides health insurance choices through state-based health insurance exchanges to families without job-based coverage and provides tax credits to those who can’t afford it. Expanding insurance to all children will enable them to access needed care, which is proven to enhance their development and learning, laying the foundation for a healthy life. Children who are uninsured have decreased access to well-child care, immunizations, basic dental services, and prescription medication. Overturning the law could lead to lifetime health burdens to children denied coverage. As I well know not all employers have to supply (or are able to supply) health coverage to their employees, leaving them the burden to find very expensive private insurance, which is often not a feasible option. Those who do not have employer-based care, are often in part-time or lower income jobs, making it very difficult to afford their own private healthcare.
A return of lifetime caps on coverage
The law ends all lifetime limits on how much insurance companies cover if beneficiaries get sick, and bans insurance companies from denying coverage when they get sick. The ACA also restricts the use of annual limits in all new plans, and existing employer plans this year, until 2012 when all annual limits for these plans are prohibited. Two-thirds of middle class families with access to employer-based coverage said their child remained uninsured because they could not afford the health plan. Overturning the law will raise health care costs for families and lead to more uninsured children. You shouldn’t be cut off from your insurance coverage at a time when you need it the most.
An end to the extension coverage up to the age of 26
The law allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan until age 26. Millions of young adults continue to have coverage as a result of this law (something from which I can relate to first hand). Overturning it could lead to insurance companies dropping those young adults as soon as they can, leaving millions of them uninsured just because they have been deemed “too old” for their parents to cover them (even if their parents have no objections to doing so).
An end to investments in women’s health
The ACA prohibits insurers from charging women substantially more than men (women pay $1 billion more each year in individual health insurance costs even though they tend to take better care of their health than men) and requires insurers to offer preventative services—including contraception (hallelujah!)—at no additional cost.
An end on discounts for seniors on brand-name drugs
Pharmaceutical manufacturers are required to provide a 50 percent discount on prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap. Seniors have already saved $3.5 billion on prescription drug costs thanks to the Affordable Care Act provision.
An end to temporary coverage for the sickest Americans
The law established temporary national high-risk pools that provide health coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions who cannot find insurance on the individual market (such as people with diabetes, cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, etc.). In 2014, they will be able to enroll in insurance through the exchanged. Over 67,000 individuals have already benefited from the program.
This list isn’t even all of the benefits we’ve seen (and will see) under the ACA nor does it provide the comprehensive details from each of the items listed here. Bottom line, the ACA helps save lives. Your life. The lives of your brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, co-workers, etc.
We make laws for the betterment of mankind all the time, laws that require you to have insurance to operate a vehicle, laws that require you to wear a seat-belt or a helmet, laws that ban texting while driving, laws that make it illegal to drink alcohol until 21 or smoke until 18, etc.. We pay into Medicare and Social Security with every pay check, even if we don’t plan on using those services. We have mayors banning large drinks to promote healthy citizens.
If our laws are made to help people and make lives better than the ACA should be a no brainer. It has already helped millions of people and when all of the provisions are able to take affect it will help millions more. How can you turn your nose up to that?
I will be out at the Supreme Court bright and early tomorrow with my colleagues, and what I expect will be hundreds of others, to show our support for the ACA. Regardless of tomorrow’s outcome (and I honestly don’t know what that outcome will be) I can assure you that this isn’t the end of the fight. If it is upheld, Congressional Republicans have vowed to repeal it. If it is overturned, advocates, like myself, will push Congress to adopt a new version of it. The battle is only beginning.
In front of the Supreme Court yesterday before the decision was read.