No matter how we vote, I think we can all agree on the basics:
Children shouldn’t have to beg on the streets for food.
If we work hard, we should be able to provide for our families.
And if someone in our family gets severely sick or injured, we shouldn’t face financial destitution on top of it all.
That’s why when U.S. senators vote in the middle of the night, as they did early Thursday morning, to start the process to remove safeguards to financial ruin when we get sick, all of us should stand up.
Because the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, doesn’t just help families like my own – independent professionals who rely on a plan purchased through the federal marketplace.
Provisions in the law affect everyone, even those on employer-sponsored plans.
A cap on what you’d owe after you reach your deductible prevents bankruptcies and financial devastation.
In the last year of a cancer patient’s life, treatments can costs tens of thousands of dollars – and sometimes more, according to the National Cancer Institute. Before the ACA, you’d be on the hook for 10, 20 or even 30 percent of that. How many people have ready access to that kind of money without dipping into retirement, college savings, or even one’s home?
And now there are no annual or lifetime limits. Imagine what it must have felt like for someone with a child who is chronically ill to know that their health insurance wouldn’t cover expensive treatments once their care reached a certain limit.
There are so many more seemingly small parts of the law that can be a huge help to working families, such as required coverage of maternity care, including breast pumps and breastfeeding consultations.
Before the ACA, I spent half a month’s salary on pumping supplies and lactation help with my firstborn. And now, all plans must cover birth control, mental health, home health and hospice care, child dental care, vaccines, and more, whether a plan is purchased through the marketplace or an employer.
If the ACA goes away, like U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr want, so do these provisions. Yes, there might be a replacement. And yes, Sen. Burr and others have proposed alternatives over the past few years. But none includes the most important of these provisions, and none provides an alternative to families like mine.
Before the ACA, health care plans available to the self-employed and small-business owners were subpar. We, and others who own small businesses or dream of owning small businesses, will be left in the lurch, having to choose between providing a safeguard to financial ruin and pursuing dreams of opening a business of our own.
Yes, plans are too expensive – for a family of four, we pay almost $1,400 a month, without subsidies, for a high-deductible plan. Had we wanted co-pays, the cost shot up to $1,700.
And yes, we need more choices. In North Carolina, we have only one health care provider to choose from, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and none of those plans are PPOs that allow you to choose from any doctor or hospital. But anyone can get insurance, even those with previous cancer diagnoses or another preexisting condition that used to disqualify them.
The system isn’t perfect. But it’s something. Why must our representatives rush the repeal without a countrywide discussion of an alternative? Why leave 20 million people in a lurch, including those who rely on subsidies to give their families the health care they need?
I would hope that we can all agree that a sick child should receive medical treatment. And when a parent is up in the middle of the night rocking a sick child, they shouldn’t be worried about paying for care. I wonder if our senators were thinking about that when they were voting in the middle of the night.
Andrea Lorenz, formerly a journalist in Texas, is a freelance writer living in Charlotte.