On Why We Need the ACA

My first time visiting a doctor in the UK during my year there, I walked out feeling like I'd forgotten something. I touched my bag and realized I never paid. And seconds later, realized I didn't have to. It was a moment of adjustment, but a happy realization that my health care had been paid for with an immigration fee and government subsidies. For years, I'd worried about health care and how I would make sure I had access to my necessary medications and emergency care as it was needed.

I never really realized wha it meant to not have to worry about your care—it was a weight off my shoulders. My prescriptions would be filled. My doctor's visits would be covered. When I needed something medical in nature, I could simply make an appointment and not have to worry about making my co-pay. I decided on a birth control method on a Monday and got it put in on a Tuesday, all for free.

We're a long way from that anxiety-free health care in the US, and I fear that our current administration is pushing us even further away. Paul Ryan's proposed health care bill is a dud that will gut Medicaid to pay for a massive tax cut. The cost burden on older Americans will increase almost exponentially. Care for persons with disabilities will be up in the air. And millions will lose access to quality care.

(And the house votes on it this coming Thursday, March 23rd. If you are an American citizen, call your representatives and urge them to vote against this bill).

One of the things I can't stop thinking about in all of this is how Paul Ryan has decided to frame the issue as a matter of freedom of choice for people affected by the plan. We have access to healthcare "if [we] want it," in Ryan's words.

I struggle with understanding this mindset—what the hell does it mean to just go after something because we "want" it? Does this mean that if I don't have health coverage, it was because I didn't want it enough? If my $300/month health care is deemed too expensive, is it just because I didn't want it enough?

When my mother was dying, we were extremely lucky that my father's state-provided and state-subsidized health care coverage covered nearly everything she needed. Each new packet of itemized bills from the hospital was another quarter of a million in charges. By the time she passed—in a hospital, under hospice care, with a morphine drip—we had racked up nearly a million dollars in charges. All covered by insurance. Toward the end, we got her on Medicare to cover the additional costs of hospice care.

Without the ACA, premiums to cover my mom with her pre-existing conditions would have been astronomical. We wouldn't have had the choice of finding a doctor who could actually diagnose her. We wouldn't have had access to the therapy programs she needed.

Did we just "want" it enough to have that freedom? Or is there something bigger than ourselves that guides what choices we're able to make? I'd think long and hard about that if I was Paul Ryan.

Dianna Anderson