House Republicans couldn’t wait for the results of the Congressional Budget Office’s assessment of their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, so they rushed the vote on it. They passed the American Health Care Act in early May.
And now we know. It’s a disaster.
The CBO released findings that estimate 23 million people will lose their insurance, only 1 million fewer than a previous version of the plan that failed in the House in March. If passed by the Senate and adopted into law, the costs of coverage will escalate for millions more. Older and poorer Americans will be disproportionately affected. The rich will be rewarded with lower premiums.
After the CBO released its analysis, Republicans predictably questioned its accuracy while Democrats issued grim warnings. Absent was any bipartisan resolve to improve the current health care system.
A booklet that has been sitting on my desk for a month beckoned. Spiral-bound, it’s titled, “The Face of our ACA: Stories from the Kansas City Metro Area.”
It’s a collection of accounts written by average citizens detailing their health care dilemmas. Their words are simple, direct — like something your neighbor might convey over the fence or a cup of coffee. And you’d listen.
Getting Congress to listen is another matter.
A grandmother writes of her 3-year-old granddaughter, diagnosed with cancer. She includes a beautiful color photograph of the girl, which graces the cover.
She’s wearing a pink princess dress, a plastic scepter at her side. The look on her face is one of stern resolve, unusually serious for a toddler wearing what is surely a favorite frilly dress-up outfit.
The little girl is bald. And it’s somehow obvious, without reading the accompanying text, that her hair loss is the effect of radiation and chemotherapy. The little girl was diagnosed 18 days after the family signed up for the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare.
“The bills for her treatment are approaching $2 million,” her grandmother writes. “Without the ACA, I don’t know what this family would have done.”
Probably separate the girl from her three siblings, she guesses, so that the ill daughter could get treatment at charity care out-of-state. Or the family would go bankrupt.
The booklet is handmade, printed at home from a computer by an Independence woman, Janis Deveney. She solicited people’s stories via social media, printed them up and sent the compilation to Kansas and Missouri members of Congress.
One can easily imagine identical booklets compiled in every congressional district in the country. And they should be.
A mother writes of her adult son, who had a pre-existing condition of asthma and avoided going to the doctor because of his health plan’s high deductible, fearing the out-of-pocket expense. He wound up in the emergency room in 2012 with chest pains and difficulty breathing, which the doctor assessed as his asthma acting up.
“He was treated and discharged. He was very frugal and knew he couldn’t afford the ER visit. Later that week, he had the same symptoms. I was not aware of this. The following weekend he had cardiac arrest and died. He was my only child.”
She concludes: “People need affordable health care and not (to) be punished with high premiums and high out-of-pocket expenses because they have pre-existing conditions. … (T)hey defer care and some die.”
The pages turn easily. The stories are short and compellingly frank. Many speak of their jobs, of savings decimated by hospital and prescription bills costs, and of their fears of being without coverage.
Cancer, heart disease, diabetes — medical maladies know no political bounds.
Nor do the cruel effects of aging. Anyone can suffer a debilitating health crisis. At some point in their lives, most people will.
The point is made anecdote by anecdote, deftly and jarringly.
Interestingly, one subject the writers mostly avoid is politics. How I wish the same were true of Congress. Passing solid health care reform aimed at improving the lives of the most vulnerable among us should be the aim — not pressing political advantage.
Literally, the health of the nation relies upon transcending politics. And yet it is partisan preening that has carried the day.