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Put Up or Shut Up Time -- For or Against the ACA

Posted by John McDonough  February 21, 2012 10:30 PM

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Here is the not-so-secret weapon that will ensure the survival and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- the stories of real Americans whose lives are being helped and saved today by the law, even though the biggest improvements don't even come until January 1, 2014.

Thankfully, journalists around the nation are starting to pay attention:

On Sunday, the Denver Post profiled four Coloradans who are being helped today by four distinct parts of the ACA:

Kathy Leinz from Salida talked about how preventive care saved her life:

"I felt perfectly fine, but a routine checkup found aggressive colon cancer, and I never even knew it. ... when the 9Health Fair came to Salida, I decided to get an affordable checkup. That was when a blood test showed something wrong with a liver enzyme, prompting me to follow up with my regular doctor. An ultrasound, CT scan and liver biopsy later, I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. After surgery to remove both ovaries, lymph glands and much of my colon, as well as chemotherapy, I can now say I'm a cancer survivor. But without that preventive visit, I might not have made it. Now that Obamacare is making preventive care available with no co-pays or cost-sharing, Coloradans can get advice they need to stay healthy and the screenings they need to halt a serious disease at an early, more treatable, and more affordable stage."

David Taft from Breckenridge wrote about the value of being able to stay on his parents' health insurance plan until age 26:

"Having health care through my parents allowed me to attend graduate school and pursue an environmental policy internship and AmeriCorps so I could concentrate on getting the experience I need to achieve my career goals rather than a looking for any old job with health care. I am grateful that health care reform has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my future."

Sonji Wilkes who lives in Arapahoe County reflected on the elimination of lifetime and annual benefit caps:

"...our 8-year-old son, Thomas, was born with severe hemophilia. With regular health care and exceptionally expensive medication, Thomas is doing very well. But we are on our third insurance policy because we keep "capping out" of our policies. Our first private insurer paid for Thomas' care for a couple of years, until his treatment reached their $1 million lifetime cap. ... Next, Thomas was covered by CoverColorado, the state's insurance plan for those with expensive pre-existing conditions. But we reached the $1 million cap on that plan within 18 months.

"Social workers then advised my husband and me to get a divorce so Thomas could qualify for Medicaid as long as I didn't work and had no income. Instead, my husband had to quit his job and start his own company, just to get health insurance for our family. Thomas' life depends on medication and regular care, and our family's financial survival depends on our insurer covering that medication. Caring for a child with severe hemophilia is stressful enough without worrying about losing health insurance every other year.

"We are so grateful that insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits, and that as of 2014 annual caps will also be a thing of the past. We have always paid for insurance; now we have comfort in knowing it will always be there. Our family is going to make it, thanks to Obamacare."                                                                                                     

And Chris Crigler from Denver talks about the ACA benefits for small businesses:

"Obamacare's small-business tax credits to help pay for health care are significant to my business. Since I pay half of employee premiums, I receive a 25 to 35 percent credit for the cost of health care coverage through 2013. After 2014, the tax credit will increase to 50 percent of premiums paid. This makes a huge difference."

And here are some snippets from a story in the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, focused on Medicare enrollees:

"When Mary Devine got the doctor's bill for her annual checkup last year, she couldn't believe how much she didn't have to pay. 'Under 'balance' there was a zero,' said Devine, 64, of Sand Hill, 'and I had several tests, including a colonoscopy and a mammogram. 'I didn't even know why it was free. I don't think a lot of us realize what is going on.'

"What's going on is the Affordable Care Act - dubbed 'Obamacare' by some - intended to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans, with many provisions in place and more on the way, maybe. While the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by mid-summer whether to keep the 2-year-old act intact, Devine is one of thousands of Mississippians who already have felt its impact.

"Like Dennis Nordin of Starkville, many are among the more than 500,000 state residents on Medicare, the federal insurance program primarily for people older than 65. Because he took advantage of an extra, free physical exam provided for under the healthcare reform act, Nordin, 70, found he had early stage prostate cancer. 'If it hadn't been free, I wouldn't have had the exam,' he said, 'and I wouldn't have been aware of the cancer. I believe it's under control now because of early detection and treatment.'"

So here is my challenge. All those claiming that older Americans are going to get denied treatment by "death panels," all those who claim that health care under the ACA will be "rationed" and denied to needy Americans, now is your time to put up or shut up.

General complaints and theoretical belly-aching won't do. Let's meet real Americans whose health and health care are getting harmed by the ACA.  Now.

No excuses, no delays. Put up or shut up.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

John E. McDonough is a professor of practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the author of the book “Inside National Health Reform”, published in 2011 by More »


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