These days my ears perk up when I hear about the future of Obamacare. I’ve always supported the Affordable Care Act and the principles on which it is based, but now I’m one if the 20-million who benefit from the program. My husband and I are now both self-employed. I’ve had the status for the last seven years, but up until recently was insulated by his full-time job with generous benefits. Now he’s pursuing a dream and building a business that in the long term will sustain us and our employees.
So the other night when I heard Trump propose the demise of the Affordable Care Act at the second presidential debate, I got scared. To be sure, the Affordable Care Act and Health Exchange it created are not perfect, and there are faults in the program which need to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, it took our country years to get where we are, and I can’t imagine taking ten steps back while the policy wonks and lobbyists arm wrestle over what should be done differently.
Here’s the other thing I can tell you – not all issues with this program are born out of the program itself. A few weeks ago I sat down with a healthcare navigator to figure out our best options to insure our family. (By the way, the service is free and if you need to purchase insurance through the Health Exchange, you should take advantage of the service.) I learned that next year North Carolinians will only have one insurer to choose from – Blue Cross Blue Shield. One choice. United Health Care and AETNA are pulling out. Why are they pulling out? It’s been too costly to ensure the state. (Insert criticisms of Obamacare here.) But wait. My navigator explained a large part of why it’s proven too costly is the underestimated cost of the number of people who now have insurance for the first time in years, or their entire life, that are now catching up on health care. All of those neglected ailments and pains are being addressed, and because they lacked wellcare for years, it isn’t cheap. Here was the kicker for me. IF our state had chosen to expand Medicaid and eliminate the coverage gap, most of those people would receive help from Medicaid, and it would have removed the burden from the private insurers.
So yeah, our lawmakers’ decision to forego billions in federal support is costing all of us. Insurers are raising their rates for everyone, not just those on the Exchange. Those of us who need the Health Exchange have limited choices. And this all could have been avoided if we’d expanded Medicaid.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. Recently released numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show that North Carolina lags behind the rest of the country when it comes to advances made in reducing the number of uninsured, because we haven’t expanded Medicaid. North Carolina’s uninsured rate is down to 11.2 percent, still well above national average of 9.1 percent. I’m dumbfounded to know that though we are all Americans, how beneficial the program is depends on what side of the state line you fall on.
I’ve also read some murmurs on the internet that point out that insurers have a vested interest in Obamacare failing. The harder they make for it to succeed, the louder the cries will get to call for its demise.
Here’s how I see it. The program is well-intentioned. The need is real, but the people determining how we get there are dealing in theory and buried in bar graphs and pie charts. Most of those developing the policies for the ACA will not directly benefit from the availability of the Health Exchange themselves. (To be fair, thousands of them will benefit from the fact that insurers can no longer deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition or charge women more for health coverage.)
My husband and I are middle class. We work 40+ hours a week and through our motivations of financial independence and pursuit of a dream, we employ dozens of people a year. But we couldn’t pursue self-employment if it weren’t for the Health Exchange. We have confidence that we can secure coverage for ourselves and our children, regardless of pre-existing conditions. I never expected for both of us to be self-employed. You may not either, but if it happens, don’t you want to know you’d have the freedom to do it? It’s entrepreneurship that drives our economy. Or if you find yourself with a chronic illness that would have made it hard to secure care pre-Obamacare, be certain you’ll be grateful ACA protections exist.
We’ve got to spend time to fix it and put party politics aside. I hate how Obamacare has become a dirty word. Call it whatever you want. Call it Trump Care – maybe that would “grab on” – on second thought, scratch that. Pardon my plays on words … I’ve been watching too much late night TV this week. Access to health care is a right, and if the humanity of it all doesn’t get you to believe that … think of it practically. People get sick, whether they have coverage or not. The question becomes, do we have the infrastructure to handle the need or not? Either way, it comes at a cost, but if we invest in care before people are sick, the cost is less, and it enables them to be productive members of society.