Here is why I’m excited for today’s health care decision: Though the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it) is imperfect in many ways, it is going to help people. It is going to help people like me. I haven’t had affordable access to medical care since I was 21, when I graduated from college and could no longer go to the on-campus clinic. My health is, for the time being, pretty great. But I am one of the millions of Americans with no way to get help if that changes. A safety net would be nice–and a lot of people need it.
For the last year and a half, I’ve been working as a freelance writer. Prior to that, I worked at start-ups, which were small and didn’t offer health care. Prior to that, I worked in food service, where health care is usually vaguely made available at an absolutely unaffordable rate. I’m not lazy, I haven’t really been unemployed since I was 17–I just have not had an adequate, affordable way to get insurance.
Now, I’m a member of the Freelancer’s Union…but they don’t offer health care where I live. I’ve looked into buying my own, but at around $300 per month for basically no coverage (it’s pretty much catastrophic and, without the Affordable Care Act, includes no basic preventative care, like my annual exam) and no vision or dental–I also wear contact lenses, which I just buy online and pay out-of-pocket to get re-prescribed every two years–it hardly seems worth it. I live in actual mortal fear of being hit by a car, of developing skin cancer (I’m high risk), or getting a particularly bad case of the flu. As a person who is bipolar, I’m also worried about having a “bad patch,” for which I am unable to get counseling.
So yes, for myself, I’m happy about Obamacare. But I’m also happy about the millions of others who will get discounts on prescriptions, who will be able to choose their provider, who will be able to get the help they need. I’m happy because mental health care should something that everyone–particularly those living in poverty and struggling with mental illness–should have access to. I’m happy because it might, maybe, possibly make the health care system less discriminatory against individuals who are transgender, who have pre-existing conditions, who have kids, who are elderly, who are women. I’m happy because this helps people. A lot of people. It helps a lot of people.
Critics of the Affordable Care Act talk about the freedom to choose our own health care, and about the freedom for others to not have to pay for the services of the less fortunate. But having the freedom to pick a plan has previously been a privilege–one millions of Americans can’t afford. And paying for others to be healthy? That’s not an infringement on your rights, that’s the responsible, humane, loving thing to do.
We are supposed to take care of each other, not let each other die of diseases that we have cures for because they can’t afford the cures–or worse, can’t even find someone who will prescribe those cures to them.
Even when we can afford to pay out-of-pocket, many uninsured individuals have a hard time finding treatment. I’ve been turned away from clinics who say they operate on a sliding scale because I was either a.) not low-income enough, or b.) was unable to prove that I wouldn’t skip out on my bill. Our current system is broken, and the Affordable Care Act takes a step toward changing that.
When your house is on fire, you call 911 and trained professionals come and help you. You don’t think twice about it, because you know that there is a way to get help, and that you can afford it, because, thanks to the taxes paid by you and everyone else, they won’t hand you a bill. Imagine, now, that your house is on fire, but instead of calling for help, you stand around and watch it burn–you maybe spit on it or say a prayer, because it can’t hurt, right?–because, if you did get help, you would be saddled with giant debt. Or worse, you’d call and they’d deny you help because your house was made of wood, which burns easily.
That’s how it is for people who don’t have health care. We’re watching our houses burn, unable to seek help, while our neighbors call us lazy.
Image: Andresr via Shutterstock