Written by Director Karen Cameron
Sometimes I just can’t believe that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed five years ago and, for the first time since I was diagnosed with diabetes at 13 years of age, I don’t have to worry about losing group health insurance. Before the ACA, I went a total of about three years without health insurance – the first time for a year when I graduated from college and could only find a full-time job that offered no coverage to “temporary” employees and then again when I was in graduate school and during its required year long residency. What I could buy on the private market would have cost more than a third of my income and would not have covered costs associated with my diabetes. So I, like well more than half a million people in Virginia today, was forced to play Russian Roulette with my health, purchasing my medication and supplies with cash and praying I wouldn’t get really sick and/or have lifelong bills I couldn’t pay.
Today, thanks to the ACA, I can’t be charged more for health insurance just because I happen to have a chronic disease or because I am a woman. I could even get help paying for it if I couldn’t afford what was available to me. Young people, like me when I was uninsured, can stay on their parent’s insurance until they are 26. I can go to most restaurants and know how many calories are in my meal choices. I can get important annual screenings and a primary care visit without having to meet a deductible or paying out of pocket. All of this allows me, and my fellow Americans, to stay healthy and remain a tax paying, productive member of society.
All one has to do is remember the spiraling costs of health care and the increasing number of Americans who couldn’t afford to get or keep health insurance for decades prior to the ACA to appreciate its value and what it has meant for the health and well being of our citizens and our economy. It took real leadership for our President and members of Congress, many who lost their seats to do the right thing and support the ACA, to make something significant happen to address our health care access and cost problems. We can’t afford to turn back the clock.