I got to suffer the lack of employer-sponsored health insurance beginning all the way back in 2002. 2002 was the year that I moved from Chicago to Maine to make joint custody work better for my family. In choosing to make life better for our family, I gave up employer-sponsored health insurance, naively assuming that good health insurance wouldn’t be that hard to obtain. I was wrong.
Maine is a strange state (in that there are few health insurance companies and thus little competition to rein in costs of that insurance). When I landed in Maine my then life partner was a full-time freelance editor and I was doing piecemeal work which meant that our only option for health insurance was to buy our own. We ended up in a high-deductible, catastrophic plan that covered very little. It covered so little that when I went into labor in 2005 with our daughter and had to be transferred to the hospital from the freestanding birth center where I had intended to give birth, virtually nothing was covered despite 36 hours in the hospital.
I would carry the debt from her birth for many years.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a blessing, albeit a complicated blessing for me. After years of being marginally insured and at times even uninsured, it has meant that I have consistent access to care. I don’t qualify for the subsidies and I still have unpaid medical debt, but paying off a few thousand dollars over time is vastly better than having tens of thousands of dollars that you can’t even afford the minimum payments on. There is peace of mind in knowing that I can have checkups, allergy meds which I used to regularly skip and stability in my care. The ACA is far from perfect but for millions of Americans, it was better than what we used to have.
Now it seems that care may come to an end thanks to the GOP and their desire to gut all things related to Obama. Overnight on January 12, the United States Senate voted to take the first step in repealing Obamacare despite having no replacement in sight. Donald Trump ran on a platform that included repealing Obamacare, though it seems many Trump supporters who championed that decision are waking up to the cold reality that Obamacare is actually the nickname for the Affordable Care Act that many of them also use. Many of them think Obamacare is the evil plan and that the ACA is some other “mostly good” plan existing separately. They think they are protected by the ACA when Obamacare goes away. Surprise! They are one and the same. That nickname “Obamacare” is something that the GOP has been happy to exploit to make people hate and support removal of something they actually use and rely on.
Yes, there are some who support Trump and GOP efforts and know Obamacare and the ACA are the same thing and want that plan gone regardless. Most of them because they were among the relatively few who didn’t get subsidies or saw their premiums rise (partly because of concessions that had to be made to the GOP to get the ACA passed to begin with) or who are still mad because some of them couldn’t keep their doctors after President Obama made the naively overconfident statement that everyone would be able to keep their doctors.
The loss of the ACA will be catastrophic for millions of Americans. Many of them voters or who are largely responsible for the GOP getting control of both houses of Congress and giving Trump the presidential victory.
Pre-existing conditions and financial concerns for healthcare cut across racial, gender and class lines; however, when you are so focused on hating a man because of the color of his skin and one’s unchecked bias, well…in that case, you vote for an unstable, unqualified, ego-driven man whose first act even before he has taken the oath of office is to put in place the framework that will effectively deny health coverage to millions of people. The process to remove the ACA has already gone into turbo mode, and neither Trump nor the Congress have any plan to replace it.
My lane in this space is generally race and middle-aged musings, but today I am mad as hell and you ought to be mad as hell too! Over the past eight years, we as a nation have had to grapple with the reality that race matters in ways that many white people have really struggled to grasp as we labored under the post-racism myth. Make no mistake, post-racism is and was a pipe dream and the ascension of Donald Trump to the highest office in America is proof. You don’t elect your first Black president ever and follow it up with a man who openly stokes the fires of racism, misogyny, Islamophobia and a host of nasties without that level of evil sitting in the hearts of the people.
America was built on a foundation of hate and hate may very well be our undoing as a nation. If the hate doesn’t kill us, lack of access to healthcare might very well do it.
Note: Yes, I do have a full-time job but the realty of a four person non-profit with an operating budget under $250,000 is that we don’t have employer-sponsored health coverage for the staff because we can’t afford and as the Executive Director of Community Change Inc. I know the organizational budget as well as I know my own personal budget. Small, grassroots nonprofits often lack the amenities of our grown-up brethren, such as retirement plans and health insurance.
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