“My life depends on having insurance.”

The importance of the ACA to Washingtonians

“My life depends on having insurance.” — Chris Griffiths, breast cancer survivor

Standing with patients, providers and administrators at Swedish Hospital in Issaquah on Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee called efforts to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act “morally irresponsible.”

Gov. Jay Inslee speaking with an audience member about the Affordable Care Act following a press conference in Issaquah, Wash., Jan. 12, 2017 (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

Congress has begun the process of repeal, despite having no plan for replacing the law’s health protections or addressing the potential loss of 51,000 jobs in Washington. Inslee recently sent letters to members of Washington’s congressional delegation asking each to vote against repeal.

“We will not stand for taking away health care for 750,000 Washingtonians without Congress replacing it on the same day,” Inslee said.

The governor was joined by patients who shared their individual stories, a nurse who discussed the ACA’s positive impact on health delivery and providers who detailed how the ACA has improved health in their communities.

Kandy Kimble traveled from Kittitas County to share her story. Self-employed for many years, she went without health insurance, planning to wait a few more years until she was eligible for Medicare. In 2014, she had a health emergency when eight bleeding ulcers were found. A three-day hospital stay in intensive care resulted in a bill of almost $70,000. After she was discharged, she sought insurance coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder, the insurance exchange. She was later diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition. Thanks to her insurance, she is able to receive the medication she needs and regularly visit with a cardiologist. Kandy will be eligible for Medicare this September.

“It is so important that people in rural communities can see a doctor and get services when they need them, at a place near their home,” Kandy said.

Kandy was joined at the event by Julie Petersen, CEO of Kittitas Valley Hospital. Julie spoke about the need for patients in her community to have access to care and for rural hospitals to have the funding to care for people like Kandy.

A breast cancer survivor, Chris Griffiths has been able to gain access to health insurance only due to the ACA. In 2005, Chris had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. The extensive treatment left her with scarred lungs, asthma and serious kidney problems. When her husband retired, she no longer had access to his employer-sponsored health plan, and her pre-existing medical condition made her uninsurable. Through the ACA, she was able to buy insurance through Washington Healthplanfinder.

“Because of the ACA, my several pre-existing conditions didn’t prevent me from getting insurance,” Chris said.

Joselito Lopez discussed his health journey that began when he was a contract worker at Microsoft in 2006 and suffered two heart attacks that left him unable to work. Without a job, he lost his health insurance. The resulting $50,000 in medical bills pushed him into bankruptcy. Joselito was unable to get affordable insurance until the ACA was implemented.

“After that, I could get the insulin I needed for my diabetes and glasses so I could read and work. And I could see a cardiologist for regular heart care. I no longer need to worry about my pre-existing condition preventing me from qualifying for insurance,” Joselito said.

In a private meeting with the governor, Skyler Nichols shared his experience of living with mental illness and substance abuse disorder. Through the ACA, Skyler has enrolled in Apple Health, the state’s Medicaid program, and received substance use treatment and mental health care. Having predictable and recommended services has allowed Skyler to stabilize his life and find purpose in helping others who are living with chronic, lifelong behavioral health issues.

“If the ACA is repealed without a thoughtful replacement, it will hurt all of us — not just those who rely on it to cover themselves and their families, but people with insurance, health providers, hospitals and more. The impact will be felt across the health care system,” Inslee said. “We will end up paying more in the long run due to the lack of preventive services that will send more people to far-more expensive emergency rooms for care. We all will be better off if we slow down repeal and make needed improvements. This is the right thing to do for our families, our communities and our state.”

The Office of Financial Management has compiled facts sheets and charts that detail the impact of the ACA in Washington.

A new website, 1in4wa.com, captures the personal impact of the Affordable Care Act in Washington.

You can watch the full press conference here.