In May of 2002, I was wrapping up my first year of teaching. My wife and I were approaching our first anniversary. We were renting our first apartment. It was a year full of firsts. Little did we know the trial awaiting us. Little did we know the highs and lows waiting in that summer of 2002 nor the crippling blow this year would have on our financial futures. In May of 2002, I was diagnosed with cancer.
After the initial surgery and recovery, my treatments went well. I didn’t need chemotherapy. I was just scheduled a series of radiation treatments. It’s odd how time softens certain facts, for I don’t remember the precise number. However, I remember the side effects. When I pull into a certain parking garage near IU Health in downtown Indianapolis, I still start to feel sick. My side effects were bad.
In the midst of the radiation treatments and my near constant state of illness, the unthinkable happened. Our insurance through my job decided I didn’t need as many treatments as the doctors prescribed. They didn’t inform us of this until after the treatments were complete and the bills were coming in. What ensued was a multi-week uphill battle between ourselves and our insurance company, and the company won. We were stuck with around $30,000.00 in untouched medical bills.
We then did something foolish. I’ll admit that. We were ignorant of the fact that we could arrange a no-interest payment plan through the hospital, and we panicked. We were overdue and being referred to a collection agency. Our checking and saving accounts combined maybe added up to $1,000. So we charged it. We put the entire amount on a credit card. It was the wrong thing to do, but we were young and didn’t know what else to do. A sizable piece of that debt is still with us to this day. Fifteen years later, it’s the single biggest obstacle between us and being able to plan for a secure financial future.
The Affordable Care Act was meant to protect people like me from having something like this ever happen again. It was not perfect; no one contests that. But instead of trying to improve on a foundation built around consumer protection, our current administration and majority party wish to roll back these protections. They can say catch phrases about paying for someone else’s healthcare all they want, but that was never what the ACA was about. It was about making sure all had access to reasonable healthcare and that corporations could not put their own interests ahead of the lives and well-being of the American citizens who rely on their coverage.
Here are some points from the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA):
- The Medicaid expansion is being phased out. This will be devastating to low-income individuals and families above the poverty line. (My income when I was a first year teacher was only a couple thousand dollars above the poverty line for families.)
- The new bill makes it easier for states to remove individuals and families from state Medicaid programs or raise premiums for children.
- Tax credits would now be figured by age rather than income. A young man making $60,000 a year will get a bigger credit than a senior living on a fixed income of $35,000 a year. AHCA financially favors the young and wealthy over older and lower-income individuals. Those who are at the highest risk are put into a more precarious position.
- AHCA allows price discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, such as cancer like I had. Other pre-existing conditions include things like having been sexually assaulted and having had a c-section. This alone will put millions at risk of being unable to afford insurance, and to be honest: It takes a special type of cruelty to charge a woman more for insurance for having been violated.
- It allows states to opt out of requiring insurance companies to cover ACA’s core 10:
- Ambulatory patient services
- Emergency services
- Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care
- Mental health and substance use disorder services
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitative services and devices
- Lab services
- Preventive care, wellness services, and chronic disease management
- Pediatric services
- It will allow multi-state corporations to abide by the most-lenient rules of the states they operate in and allows employee plans to remove catastrophic coverage provisions.
In short, AHCA could result in millions of Americans losing access to healthcare. Before ACA, my wife and I managed to keep our heads above water despite a catastrophic health situation. Not all people will be so fortunate. This is a potentially devastating piece of legislation, and the true tragedy is that many of those who voted for our current administration will likely be the hardest hit.
I don’t want anyone to face the choices my family did. What’s going on right now is not about fiscal conservatism. It is about moral bankruptcy.