Health Care Is That Certain Unalienable Right

We … all…are created equal … endowed by … Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

House members left the Capitol after morning votes on Friday in Washington. CREDIT: AL DRAGO/THE NEW YORK TIMES

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ ”
- Deuteronomy 15:7–11

Whether we like it or not, health care in this country is complex. Despite the ideals presented through the constitution, the fact is those ideals were intended for few. Its hard to believe that equitable and widespread change will happen. However, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as ACA) has made it easier for so many to access the care that is required to sustain and nurture that most significant inalienable right — life. Most of the time anyways. But that most of the time is why we need to act, urgently. At the very least, access to health care prevents added stress, which in worst case scenarios can decrease immunity, which causes illness. And now, once again, the ACA is in jeopardy, and many of us are literally living in fear not knowing what’s next.

“We know that about 10 million more people have insurance coverage this year as a result of the Affordable Care Act….The biggest winners from the Affordable Care Act include people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas. The areas with the largest increases in the health insurance rate, for example, include rural Arkansas and Nevada; southern Texas; large swaths of New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia; and much of inland California and Oregon. SOURCE: Enroll America, 2014

For me, our health care system has always been problematic. Throughout my adult life, because of pre-existing conditions I was denied coverage by all major insurers, despite that its because of those pre-existing conditions why I need/ed coverage in the first place. I wasn’t interested in disputing the insurance companies, so I sought treatment through unconventional ways. Which wasn’t always beneficial. Until October of 2013, when Covered California enrollment started. California was the first state to enact the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. It was a blessing. On an independent contractor’s salary, less than $80 was truly affordable, and pre-existing conditions were no longer a deal breaker. Win!

And then I became an employee, with the added benefit of real health insurance. Everything was okay for a year.

Fast forward to today. I currently have to pay $488 a month to keep the insurance my employer paid for before they laid us off, this is through the COBRA Act of 1985 (Reagan). For me, this is not affordable. I tried switching insurance through Covered California, but because I have the option to continue my coverage, no matter the expense, I was approved of similar coverage at $385, without premium assistance or cost-sharing reductions, even though my income had changed substantially. Because the “similar” coverage under Covered California wouldn’t cover the specific procedures/coverage I need, I “opted” for taking “advantage” of the COBRA Act. My husband on the other hand, who doesn’t really need the same benefits, pays substantially less for different coverage he receives under Covered California. If he did need the same coverage we would be paying $950 a month under the COBRA Act, for continuing the same exact health care we had prior to my being laid off. COBRA basically just let’s you keep the insurance your employer paid (though they receive subsidies via tax benefits). Our only other option was under my husband’s union/guild, which because of how complex the film industry is right now, was and is not an option.

And on top of the premiums, my particular “benefits” aren’t even fully paid for. I still have 50% out-of-pocket expenses.

I despise this health care system. It’s seriously flawed. But the fact of the matter is, if I weren’t given the privilege of the employer health care option, and the care that that specific plan provides, I would be without health care, like I was for so long before October 2013. And in March I’ll be discontinuing the COBRA policy, it’s just too expensive, and I won’t need that specific coverage. And that’s when I hope to once again utilize the ACA, and re-enroll in Covered California.

The ACA was there before I was employed. Because of pre-existing conditions I was denied health care, the ACA filled those gaps. And at this moment the ACA is filling in those gaps for my husband, but now I worry that it might not be there for us in March, if we don’t have the option of employer-paid health care. I’ll definitely need health care, for those pre-existing conditions (whatever that means anyways, aren’t we all pre-existing). I’m also worried that it might not be there for the millions who need it, with similar or far more urgent circumstances. Those without livable income, or with pre-existing conditions, or who are trying with all their might to make ends meet.

Health care isn’t a luxury. Or even a privilege. It’s a right. No matter how you view health care; colonized or decolonized.

And here’s something interesting I found at The Hill: “The evolution of health care in the United States took an interesting path. After World War II, President Truman proposed a national insurance system, similar to the Canadian model today. The effort failed for 2 reasons: 1) opposition from the American Medical Association, perhaps fearing loss of income; and 2) the belief of Southern Democrats that a national insurance system would force hospital racial integration (in fact, Medicare, introduced in 1966, resulted in desegregation of U.S. hospitals).” *I couldn’t find much to prove the 2nd statement, except for this and this, which say a lot.

The bottom line is, we need a single payer, not profit based health care system, period. It’s not happening in the next four years. But for now, we have the Affordable Care Act, and it’s the best thing we have. So what’s next? What do we do? Make phone calls, write letters? Create a living hell for the GOP? Yes, because our lives depend on it.

2015. The Supreme Court handed down a victory for the Affordable Care Act, ruling that people living in states with federal health exchanges are eligible for tax subsidies despite language in the law. CREDIT: PBS

For too long it’s been about favors, bottom lines, and partisan politics. It’s our time now, just as our constitution reminds us of our rights:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

And when in doubt… “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” (declaration of independence)

I’ll repeat what Ijeoma Oluo advises, call your representatives today. But I’ll add — call the opposing representatives too. Write letters to your local Republican leaders to let them know who you are, who exactly they’ll be hurting, maybe send them a photo, I dunno. Apparently they don’t humanize us all as much as they should. Share your stories! Share your stories!