The ACA, Pope Francis & Me

“When a society—whether local, national, or global—is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility.”

–Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation

Pope Francis has been making headlines for his recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and his condemnation of consumerism, trickle down economics, and his critique of the modern capitalist economy. I was stuck by the above quote as I officially joined the ranks of the insured through the Affordable Care Act

Pope Francis' recent words are a blunt reminder of the failings of the U.S. healthcare system.

Pope Francis’ recent words are a blunt reminder of the failings of the U.S. healthcare system.

this week. For the last six months I’ve chronicled what it’s like to wait and wonder what my state health exchange would look like, what plans would be available to someone such as myself with a pre-existing condition and stuck in a “high risk pool” that offered policies that essentially covered nothing, and what type of financial savings I would achieve.

How did it go? In today’s bullet-point, 30-second attention span society, here are the highlights:

  • My husband (also in the high risk pool) and I found top-of-the-line platinum coverage ($2,000 deductible/each and 100 percent coverage of everything after the deductible is met) for a combined monthly premium of $814. Thank you MNSure, the Minnesota State Exchange for the great plan offerings on your site. Minnesota produced the lowest plan rates in the country.
  • We were ineligible for tax credits as our combined income is far less than six figures but above poverty levels (for which I am grateful).
  • No one asked for our medical history; no plan on the Exchange has a life-time maximum benefit (thank you ACA).
  • We used a licensed professional insurance broker to bob and weave through the intricacies of the multitude of plans offered. Thank you Sheryl Frieman of Array Financial Services.
  • It’s impossible to calculate how much we saved on premiums as the high-risk pool is dissolving and no 2014 rates were available to produce and apples-to-apples comparison.

affordablecareact-v2But what does success look like for those “on the fringe” as Francis reminds us. Think for a minute of the millions of Americans struggling far more than me to make ends meet. A major goal of the ACA was to provide them a lifeline to health care coverage. For those lucky enough to live in states with governors who are expanding Medicaid, the real success stories are happening. The ACA is providing those “on the fringe” with health care, human dignity, and hope for a healthier life. If the ACA can move Americans past the “me, me, me” scenario that dominates our culture today into a conversation focused on “we,” then as a people and a country we will all be better off because of the ACA.

How is it in the course of my lifetime, greed and individualism has hardened our hearts to the cry of those on the fringe who simply want to see a doctor? And for those Republican governors who refuse to expand Medicaid coverage, I wonder, how do they sleep at night? What do they think when they hear the words of Francis?

“One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. … The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings. …”

Anyone who reads these pages knows that I am an outspoken supporter of single payer—Medicare For All (without for-profit supplemental health plans). But we continue to be the only educated country on the globe who refuses to provide health care for all of its citizens. So, we have the ACA—a step in the right direction.

I succeeded in securing health care for 2014. But there’s a hollow sense of accomplishment when I realize so many of my fellow citizens remain “on the fringe.” I take my hope from Cindy Young, from Campaign For A Healthy California, the group working to bring single payer to that state. Earlier this year she told me:

“My hope is that once all of the ACA is fully implemented people will see that there is still a need for a universal health care plan. And as was shown in Massachusetts, their individual mandate does not prevent medical bankruptcies. I am hopeful because when something like this (the ACA) happens, there’s a shift. And, I think the shift will be that more folks will realize that we tried with the ACA and we got only so far and that we have more work to do.”

And that will be the ultimate ACA success story..if it moves us to single payer.

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