The Affordable Care Act: My Journey To Full Implementation

The first of the month and another $329.21 automatic withdrawal from my checking account to the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA).  What is MCHA?  It’s a “high risk pool” for those of us who cannot get health insurance through “normal” means, for whatever the reason.  For me it’s a pre-existing condition (breast cancer in 2009).

The Affordable Care Act is a baby step to what we really need, a single payer delivery system.

The Affordable Care Act is a baby step to what we really need, a single payer delivery system.

Six months more of auto deductions to go until full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As the June deduction hit my checkbook I wondered:  The chance for real affordable healthcare is so close; the Minnesota Health Exchanges will be up and running for consumer selection by October. My health is holding up…should I just stop paying $329.91 a month for a policy that ultimately I can’t use. Do I take the gamble?

And always as that deduction hits I ask myself: Why do I live in the only industrialized nation in the world that somehow thinks the insanity of for-profit insurance companies equates to health care coverage for its citizens? Why can’t there be a single payer system? Medicare for all.  Everybody In-Nobody Out. Call it what you want. The rest of the industrialized world calls it health care at a far more reasonable price than what we have here in the United States.

For the last 20 months as a breast-cancer survivor I have had the distinct honor of paying more than $300 a month for a health “insurance” policy that carries a $10,000 deductible. Who in their right mind would call that health care coverage?  Any trip to any doctor for any condition requires I pay the first $10,000.  Who has that kind of “disposable income?” I can barely make it from paycheck to paycheck. When the dust cleared from the initial breast cancer treatments in 2009 (I chose no chemo therapy and no recommended 5-year drug therapy), the insurance premiums on the private policy I had increased nearly 20 percent for the next two years. When the monthly premium hit $709 for a $5,000 deductible I cried uncle. I was approaching 60 years of age; I had exhausted my savings to pay for a health insurance policy that was no longer financially sustainable, and I had a pre-existing condition.

I still remember the insurance broker I called to help me sort through the options I already knew didn’t exist.  She cringed and said, “Honey. No one’s going to insure you.” And she was right. My only option was a high-risk pool and continued prayers that my health would hold up.

Now I stand 6 months away from what could be my bridge to Medicare. And yet I hear that politicians are once again trying to repeal the ACA; trying to make a 2014 political campaign issue out of the first real band-aid to our intolerable health care delivery system in this country.  I always wonder: Who are these people and don’t they know how many Americans are literally dying as we await the implementation of this baby step toward a real health care delivery system that works for people and not million-dollar CEOs of for-profit health care systems?

Here in Minnesota we have a fighting chance of implementing a health exchange that may actually serve the average person like me struggling to find health care coverage. As I literally count down the days to the Exchanges going “live,” I know more than ever that single payer remains the only answer and that anyone who tries to campaign on repeal of the ACA is heartless.

I plan to blog about what it’s like as we countdown to January 1, 2014 and the first date of ACA implementation. If you don’t know what single payer is, learn! I plan to write more about single payer and the great organizations around the country pushing for it even as the ACA takes all the headlines. Telling our stories is the only way to breakdown the ignorance of those who think that somehow health care is a privilege only for those who can afford it. How many of these people, I ask myself, are “good Christians?” Did they never hear, “when Lord, did we see you sick?”

What’s your health care story?  Send a note, post a comment below, talk to a neighbor or even better, talk to your state legislator or congressional representative.  Look for my thoughts on UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley’s recent comments about his for-profit company deciding to stay out of the Exchanges in many states because people will have a “pent up appetite” for medical care. Youbetcha Steve – we sure do. A basic human right that you deny us as you bank your 2012 $34 million total compensation package.

You will hear the constant refrain from me as we move toward ACA implementation: Singe Payer remains the only real answer to the health care delivery crisis this country faces. I encourage everyone to stay informed and learn more about the organizations working in your state is to implement single payer. Health Care For All Minnesota (HCAMn) continues its relentless pursuit of bringing single payer to the Land of 10,000 lakes where I live.  As the ACA readies for implementation, Executive Director Erin Anderson knows why single payer is what’s needed.

“The complexity of implementing and understanding the reforms required under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is becoming more apparent,” Anderson said. “We believe that this complexity will lead not only to confusion for patients and caregivers but also to increased costs for premiums and other administrative costs that will continue to drive the cost of health care ever higher. The ACA also perpetuates the for-profit health care system that values money over helping the sick and injured. Health Care for All-Minnesota knows the only true way to ensure everyone has access to the care they need regardless of age, income, health and employment status is through a single-payer system.

Actor Michael Milligan's one act play Mercy Killers dramatically portrays the human pain associated with our current health care delivery system.

Actor Michael Milligan’s one act play Mercy Killers dramatically portrays the human pain associated with our current health care delivery system.

One of the best examples of how our current health delivery system continues to ravage “average” people is the one person, one-act play Mercy Killers, performed by Michael Milligan. This powerful drama brings to life in a passionate display just how deeply lives are impacted by our current system. Milligan returns to Minnesota on Thursday June 20 to perform his play as part of HCAMn’s Summer Celebration.  For more information on that performance, click here. For more information on Milligan, the play and how to host a performance of this riveting drama, click here.

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