For many health care advocates, the fight for the health care law is more than just a job – it’s personal. I was just a sophomore in college when I was diagnosed with a chronic condition that would require lifelong medical treatment. At a time when most college students believe they are invincible, my parents and I were consumed with issues like, would my life-saving medical treatment – which would be necessary for the rest of my life – be covered by insurance, and if so, would they cover my treatment at school five-hours away from my home? And what would happen when I graduated? Would I be able to find a job that had decent health insurance? And what if I decided to go to graduate school? In short, in addition to worrying about my newly diagnosed condition, health insurance was something I had to worry about. A lot. In fact, it has been a recurrent worry throughout the last 28 years since I was diagnosed. What is proper etiquette when receiving a job offer to try to figure out if the insurance they offer is good enough to cover your needed medical treatment? Will you doom a small employer’s health insurance premiums with huge cost increases once you are added to their workforce? How to explain to others offering to hire you that, thanks anyway, you couldn’t possibly open your own consulting gig because you wouldn’t be able to get health insurance on your own?
That’s why for me – and millions of Americans living with a chronic health condition – passage of the Affordable Care Act provides such peace of mind. And while I’ve been very lucky over the last three decades to have jobs with decent insurance, I wonder what kinds of different opportunities I might have pursued had I not been so worried about finding and keeping health insurance coverage. And still, there are opponents of the law who want to repeal it and have stated that the “private market” would somehow magically take care of these problems. Right. Like the private market has done so well for insurance for decades now. Like how the private market has created conditions where women can’t find insurance at any price that includes coverage of a basic health care service like maternity. Or allows insurance companies to charge women more than men just because of their gender.
Some opponents of the law have said that there could be high risk pools for people like me who can’t get coverage due to a pre-existing condition. To an insurance company executive, that sounds like a dream come true. After all, insurance companies have been rejecting people from coverage due to pre-existing conditions without accountability or recourse for decades. But we’re not just talking the serious stuff like breast cancer or heart disease – we’re talking about previously having had a c-section. Or acne. Should someone who is rejected by an insurance company because they had acne be in a high risk insurance pool? All that does is incentivize insurance companies to reject even more people and fight over the remaining cream of the insurance risk pool crop: healthy, young people. And thus further incentivize insurers to reject people they deem not worth the risk (ie: a risk to their high profits).
Already the Affordable Care Act is helping millions of Americans living with a chronic health condition like me. And for us, 2014 can’t come fast enough because that’s when the majority of the Affordable Care Act provisions come into effect. The thought that some would want take this law away – and the peace of mind that comes with it- is maddening to me. Is the law a cure for all the problems of our current health care system? Of course not. Could the law be better? Absolutely – I could point you to several places. But to repeal the whole thing? No way. We can’t go back. I know I’ve waited 28+ years for this law – and there are millions who have waited far longer.
That’s why today I’m one of millions saying, Happy Anniversary to the Affordable Care Act; here’s to many more years to come.