This week marks the five-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA). This has heralded the largest transformative process in health care since the advent of Medicare and Medicaid 50 years ago.
The rates of uninsured have gone down. Preventive measures have gone up. States with Medicaid expansion have seen significant economic benefit to their states. It is too early to see the improvement this will make in health but part of that cannot be measured. It is relief from the constant worry and uncertainty of being always on the edge. It is easing of the fear of a catastrophic illness; the fear that there is something wrong but you are too afraid to ask because you can’t pay for treatment anyway. Statistics will not show that.
I am so proud of the health care workers who, in the face of uncertainty and change, have stepped forward with increased efforts to serve and treat in a way that is most comfortable and convenient for the patients. They have rewritten forms and materials to make them more understandable, more accessible. They walk with patients as they figure out how to enroll in these new options. This has not been easy, but it has been worth it for so many.
But there’s still an underserved population out there. There are still people who can’t afford insurance but don’t have access to government aid. They live in states like Kansas and Missouri that have not expanded Medicaid.
Last week, I attended the Medicaid hearing in Topeka, Kan. It was a civil discourse on a difficult but potentially life-changing topic. The testimony was excellent, as was the turnout of hundreds of people who bore respectful witness to the need to care for each other.
It all comes down to my uninsured friend, Chuck, who has had years of a seizure disorder. He takes a cheap medicine that has kept him seizure free. The hard part is getting to a doctor to get it prescribed. Without insurance, visits to a doctor are costly and virtually unattainable. Chuck told me that he just wants to wake up every day and know that he will be safe enough to drive and to go to work every day. Medicaid expansion would help make this a reality for Chuck.
I hold out hope for all of the Chucks.