Three Thanksgivings ago, my niece was rushed to a Columbia, Mo., hospital where doctors discovered she had Type I diabetes. She was a freshman at the University of Missouri at the time. The medical care Hannah received that night saved her life. Her parents’ health insurance saved her financially.
An Affordable Care Act (ACA) provision has allowed her to remain covered by their insurance up to the age of 26. Without this, Hannah might have had to quit college and work to pay for her insulin, testing supplies, insulin pump and regular doctor visits. Instead, she is researching graduate schools and considering a career in health policy.
In theory, I oppose federal government involvement in — well, nearly everything — but especially our complex health care market. In real life, my fiscal conservatism is faltering.
I have two friends who received subsidized benefits through ACA this past year. One had a pre-existing condition that made marketplace insurance unaffordable. The other was unemployed for more than a year and needed the safety net. Anyone who’s had a major medical experience will testify that the costs can decimate a household budget for years beyond the health crisis itself.
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Good health benefits are the difference between “making it” and not. Last autumn, my husband underwent a hip replacement by an excellent Overland Park surgeon. His hop-a-long gait was too painful. He worried his work would suffer.
The surgery was expensive, but our employee health plan’s out-of-pocket maximum made it doable. Dan jokes that without that surgery, he’d be wearing a canine hip-harness.
Some of us, some of the time, have benefited from generous insurance plans. All of us, all of the time? No. Even with the ACA, some of our friends didn’t qualify for subsidies but couldn’t pay the going rate of private insurance, either. All they could afford was the tax penalty for not complying with the law.
So are my loved ones more deserving of affordable health care than yours?
My faith doesn’t like where my politics have been on this issue. I should seek for others what I desire for myself, my family and my friends. The state of our health affects our employability, our family dynamics, even our sense of self. Most of us want to live enough years to do or experience something of value. The longer our bodies work well, the more achievable this seems.
So I am reluctantly embracing national health care reform, vetted by a federal legislative process that is deliberative and exhaustive. Obamacare cannot be rescinded in its entirety, wretched mess though it is. But a well-crafted plan could supersede it.
In the meantime, we can care for the vulnerable closer to home. Missouri State Sen. Ryan Silvey is suggesting he has support for a bill that will try again to expand Medicaid. That must happen.
There is an individual mandate, as well. On this my politics and faith do agree. It’s my job to notice someone on a fixed income who needs a new pair of glasses. Or the single mother whose kids could use dental work. Or medical bills that threaten to cancel a co-worker’s Christmas.
To the extent that we can personally assist those in our line of sight, we should. Together, we can bear the weight of being human.
Teresa Williams of Kansas City is a freelance writer and home-schooler. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.