Maybe my extended family is unusual in terms of health problems, but the past couple of years have left us really needing the protections provided by ObamaCare. If it is repealed, we stand to lose access to health care.
Let me start with a cousin, married with two teenaged sons. Her sons have had a string of accidents that put the limits of the “boys will be boys” refrain to the test. They have gotten sick and been hit by reckless drivers more than once – with one injured so badly that he was medevaced from the scene of the accident and was not expected to live. Her husband suffered a brain aneurysm and survived thanks to speedy and major medical intervention, incredible luck and family support.
They depend on my cousin’s employer for their health insurance. None is available through her husband’s employer. She is a bookkeeper for a large company, and each year her share of costs for insurance have risen so steeply that just a couple of days before her husband suffered the aneurysm, she opted for far less coverage so she could afford the payments. On top of all this, she is going to night school to get her degree.
Her sons hope to go to college, but sooner or later they will need to work. ObamaCare protects them from losing health insurance coverage by letting them stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26. It gives them – and their future employers – an advantage my daughter did not have at their age. When she graduated from college and was looking for a job, I could no longer carry her on my health insurance. For weeks, her job offers fell into two categories – either very cool, interesting jobs with small, start-up employers that offered no health insurance, or jobs she was willing to consider only because they offered health insurance.
She cared about health insurance because she had had a wake-up call when she was seriously injured while at college. She got great care – and she has the scars to show it. But in the aftermath, she found herself mired in months of fighting her health insurance carrier to provide the coverage they had contracted to pay.
Under ObamaCare, she could have health insurance through my carrier until age 26. That flexibility would have enabled her to take the jobs she really liked – and it would have benefited those small employers by helping them attract smart, competent employees like my daughter.
After weeks and weeks, she was finally offered a job that offered health insurance and allowed her to do work she liked.
A couple of years ago, I found myself ill with two rare diseases. While there is no cure for either of these conditions, the symptoms can be treated. I have great health insurance and have gotten very good care, from the months of tests required to diagnose my problems to access to specialists. I’m likely to need that very good coverage for the rest of my life. Before ObamaCare, that coverage and treatment could have been easily lost.
I am also lucky to be part of a very large insurance pool at my job – one that includes many, many healthy people. Having such a large pool that includes people who aren’t sick and won’t have accidents keeps insurance costs low for all of us. That “all of us” is not just older and sick people. It includes those younger people who might think they are immortal and don’t need health insurance – until they find out that they aren’t, and that they do.
ObamaCare uses that same pooling model to bring down the cost of health insurance by requiring everyone to purchase coverage by 2014. This is one of the most controversial parts of the law, but the cold, hard fact is that unless everyone is in the pool, insurance costs will rise and more and more people will drop out, leading to higher costs that almost no one can afford and leaving many, many people with no health care coverage – exactly the situation that we have seen playing out the past few years.
So there we are, just regular people with preexisting conditions who sometimes have accidents or get sick for no obvious reason and who work and who would love to have work they like while still having health care. Before ObamaCare, those common problems could mean denials of coverage and no or poor health care. Worse, medical services cost so much that, in 2007, 62 percent of all personal bankruptcies were caused by health problems. Even having health insurance was not enough to avoid bankruptcy. Seventy-eight percent of those filing for bankruptcy had health insurance.
All of us are already benefitting from ObamaCare whether we realize it or not. For example, as of this past summer, insurers must cover, for no-pay: blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests, many cancer screenings, routine vaccinations, prenatal care and regular wellness visits for infants and children. Why these tests, and why no co-pay? Because these tests diagnose problems, and when problems are found early, treatment and cures are more effective.
We all will benefit as new protections kick in. Details about those benefits can be found at the new Health and Human Services website created to make getting information about healthcare easy – http://www.healthcare.gov/.
Now that the election has given health care reform opponents the upper hand, we must prepare now to fight against repeal. It is all that stands between us and losing access to health care and going bankrupt to pay for it. Our rallying cry must be: Hands off our ObamaCare!