Funding Obamacare: It’s about life

There are countless people who have needed health care, and they had no hope of affording insurance before the ACA


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Consider the story of a woman I will call Alice (not her real name). She came to my office several years ago seeking help processing health insurance claims. Not what you might ordinarily expect a law firm to do, but we dug into the task.

Alice’s husband had left her about four years before, when she was nearly 60. Their divorce agreement obligated her ex-husband to maintain the health insurance coverage that he and Alice had during their marriage, but only during the 36-month period Alice was eligible under federal law.

When I met with Alice, I learned that she was diabetic. Like many with that disease, she had poor circulation, which had led to an infection, and the recent amputation of one of her legs. I also learned that her health insurance had just run out.

I was able to help Alice with her immediate problem -- most of her medical bills had been incurred before her health insurance expired, and the claims were eventually paid. But I couldn’t touch her larger problem.

She was a 62-year-old woman with huge medical problems and no health insurance. Because of her pre-existing conditions, no health insurer would sell her a policy at any price. She did not qualify for Medicaid because she was not poor enough. She was three years shy of Medicare eligibility. Another infection was either going to leave her dead, or bankrupt.

I lost touch with Alice. Maybe she reached Medicare age, and the security of health insurance. Maybe she became a statistic -- several years ago, a study by Harvard Medical School concluded that 45,000 deaths each year are due to lack of health insurance.

There are countless other Alices who need health care, and they had no hope of affording health insurance in the marketplace that existed before Obamacare.

Today, people like Alice cannot be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition. Obamacare swept away all those pre-existing condition clauses.

Starting Jan. 1, people like Alice will be eligible for help with health insurance premiums, with the amount of assistance depending on the person’s income.

If a person faces a severe medical condition, such as cancer, a life-threatening infection, or heart disease, there are no lifetime limits on health insurance benefits.

The people who want to defund Obamacare are the same people who made Obamacare a central issue in the 2012 campaign. Then the people spoke. The Republicans lost the presidential campaign, lost seats in the House, and lost seats in the Senate.

Republicans can’t repeal Obamacare through the legislative process, so they are throwing a tantrum, threatening to shut down the government if they don’t get their way. The Democrats say “we won’t negotiate” -- a logical stance, as any concession would only encourage more blackmail.

All the political theater boils down to this: Are we, as a nation, going to help people like Alice obtain affordable health care? Now that Obamacare has answered that question, Democrats say there is no going back.

Mark Fernald, an attorney in Peterborough, was the 2002 Democratic nominee for governor.


 

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