Here’s Who’s Celebrating the Death of Trumpcare: The Chronically Ill
I dare you to look into my clients’ eyes and tell them that the AHCA would have improved their quality of life.
Like most healthcare advocates, I was glued to my phone last Thursday and Friday. On March 24, the GOP was scheduled to vote on their replacement of Obamacare, what they called the American Health Care Act.
For the last seven years, Republicans have rallied around repealing the Affordable Care Act. But as nurses, doctors, and insured individuals held their breath expecting the worst, the GOP chose to stop the vote rather than lose face. They didn’t have the support needed to pass a bill that would cost US taxpayers more money, give tax breaks to the wealthy, and force 24 million people to lose their coverage.
The AHCA targeted the most vulnerable among us — those who historically have a justified distrust of the healthcare system — while allowing insurance companies and our wealthiest Americans to take home greater and greater profits. In my state of Illinois alone, according to the Protect our Care Coalition, a million families would have either lost coverage or faced insurmountable medical costs.
Fiscal sense and human sense are not mutually exclusive. I dare you to look into my clients’ eyes and tell them that this bill, born in a GOP highly secured basement, would have improved their quality of life.
Even though the bill is dead for now, my clients are still terrified. I’m a legal advocate working at the Legal Council for Health Justice, and in the last four years, I’ve personally enrolled more than 1,000 flesh and blood humans into ACA Medicaid expansion or the Marketplace. Before Obamacare, my clients, all of whom are living with chronic illnesses, couldn’t get insurance because of their pre-existing conditions. These were workers who lost families and homes due to medical debt, disabled individuals who didn’t have the resources to fight the bureaucracy within Social Security, professors who couldn’t access the surgeries they needed.
For them, the ACA is a life saver. I worked with a 44-year-old heart transplant recipient who was laid off after receiving his new heart, and couldn’t afford COBRA payments on his measly unemployment benefits. Because of ACA, we were able to enroll him in a Marketplace plan and, when his unemployment ran out, we transitioned his coverage to Medicaid. In January, I helped a fellow social worker apply for Medicaid coverage while she was in between work. She was quickly approved, able to get her yearly pap smear, and was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer. Medicaid will carry her through her treatment. She’ll soon be able to go back to work within her community, supporting at-risk youth.
With cases like these, in the last 4 years, I’ve witnessed a gradual evolution of our society’s understanding about health. The ACA has had years to become woven into the fabric of our hospitals, community health centers, and state funding structures. Individuals I work with are forming relationships with medical providers; they are participating in their own health instead of waiting for something to go terribly wrong.
But with Trump’s election, my clients are falling back into uncertainty. For many of them, the attempted repeal of the ACA feels like déjà vu. For example, last week I completed my fourth marketplace enrollment with a 54-year-old grocery worker who loves to play the guitar and earns about $19,000 a year. Before the ACA, he was quoted at $1,200 a month premium from the high risk pools, so lauded by the GOP. Clearly, he could not pay this amount, or afford to put money away in a Health Savings account. Prior to the vote, he was terrified of returning to this reality.
To be sure, the Affordable Care Act is by no means perfect. But it is a vital, necessary start. My colleagues and I will fight harder to improve access, decrease costs, and provide healthcare options for all people.
After the NO vote on Friday, my team took a moment to lift the weight we’ve been carrying since November, and truly breathed. Obamacare is still the law of the land. Tomorrow I will wake up and continue to help our clients navigate the insurance landscape, all the while working towards equity.