Ever since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect, allowing healthcare access to tens of millions of people who previously had none, we have heard a constant refrain: “We have to do something about Obamacare.”
Key features of the ACA include: Permitting children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26; requiring insurance companies to cover such women’s health issues as family planning, pregnancies and C-sections; covering mental health; providing basic preventive care; overriding exclusions for pre-existing conditions; and enabling people with part-time jobs who lack insurance to purchase coverage through an exchange.
This additional coverage has come with a cost, hitting affluent citizens the hardest. Premiums have continued to rise exponentially, although less than many predicted prior to implementation of the ACA.
In recent months, I hear the drumbeat grow louder: “We have to do something.”
I agree, but I thought doing something meant doing something to improve the situation, not make it worse.
Doing something should mean lowering drug costs for a child with a peanut allergy whose mom is suddenly told at the pharmacy that a refill for that epipen will be $600 please.
Doing something should mean finding the means to provide more – not less — help for those heroic families caring for, adopting and raising children with complex medical conditions and special needs.
Doing something should mean trying to reduce healthcare premiums for the middle class.
Doing something should mean that after increasing health insurance coverage of children in our state from 88% prior to the ACA to 96% today, we should strive to cover 100% of our children.
Doing something should include paying adequate rates to those in the mental health field who help families with the most challenging, gut-wrenching diagnoses. Suicide is now the number one cause of death in South Carolina among children ages 10-14.
Doing something should not result in the resumption of lifetime caps on payouts for health conditions, so that a premature infant in the neonatal intensive care unit does not use up her entire lifetime allotment during the first week of her existence.
Doing something should not drive rural hospitals and health clinics into bankruptcy so that for many people the nearest hospital will be hours away when it’s time to deliver a baby or when a loved one has a heart attack.
Doing something should mean that physicians have more time to talk to even more parents about the importance of reading with children, how to handle a tantrum, setting limits, instilling healthy eating habits, promoting oral hygiene and discussing the importance of safe sleep routines.
Doing something should not mean that 22 million people lose their health insurance.
“Something” certainly must be done to insure affordable access to healthcare and to reduce the many unseen costs to our society when that access is restricted.
The bill currently before the U.S. Senate is the wrong “something.” It is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American College of Physicians, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, the Children’s Hospitals Association, and the March of Dimes.
Please encourage our lawmakers to work together to improve the Affordable Care Act, not destroy it.
Martha Edwards, MD
Immunization Chair and District Representative of the SC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics