As the one year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) approaches, opponents of progress are committed to repealing or fatally wounding the law. The PPACA is a big step forward for working families as we claw our way out of the Great Recession. The landmark law creates jobs, reduces the deficit, and strengthens America’s middle class.
Efforts to repeal the law are misguided and dangerous. As a pediatrician, I care for hardworking middle class families who are already less vulnerable to bankruptcy because of PPACA. I care for families who are able to send their kids to college despite serious illness now that lifetime coverage limits are no longer allowed, and who do not have to fear being denied care because they have a health problem, kicked off their policy or having their policy taken away when a member of the family gets sick. I care for children from birth until adulthood, and along the way, we share all kinds of challenges. To illustrate how the PPACA benefits my patients, I want to tell you about one of these families.
About six months ago, a baby came in to my office for a regular check up. Her left eye did not look right, and when we looked carefully, instead of a red spot at the back of her eye, we saw a white spot. Any pediatrician will tell you that means retinoblastoma, or cancer of the eye. This means the child will need multiple imaging studies, and tough, drawn out treatments in the hospital. Eye, brain, and cancer specialists, and likely infectious disease specialists, not to mention speech and physical therapists, will care for this baby. One MRI will cost thousands, and each hospital admission and cancer treatment will cost tens of thousands of dollars. Without coverage and safeguards, this could bankrupt a family.
Before 2010, this baby’s insurance company was able to get away with denying this kind of care. Before 2010, this baby’s insurance company was able to ration care by delaying authorization of necessary treatments that were deemed to be a loss for the insurers. Before 2010, insurance company bureaucrats could TAKE AWAY care that this baby’s parents had already paid for, a practice called “recision.” They could decide this baby was getting too expensive and kick them off the plan, or impose a lifetime limit. As a children’s doctor, my bottom line is my patients, and for this baby’s mother, the bottom line is her child’s life. For insurance companies, the bottom line is just that, the bottom line.
The Affordable Care Act protects children and their families from rationing by insurance companies. It protects families from bankruptcy when they hit their lifetime limits. It ensures that when a child gets sick, insurance companies cannot take away the coverage their family pays for. This is not some abstract legal theory. This is a way to make sure my patients get the care I know they need, the care I’m dedicated to providing.
Repealing the PPACA now would mean taking away 4 million jobs from a struggling economy, putting middle class families at risk of bankruptcy, and increasing deficit spending. Repeal is not an option, and optimal implementation is a must.