Remembering the common goal of health care reform.

The Los Angeles Times posted an Op-Ed yesterday that caught many eyes – a testimonial from a woman, Ms. Ward, who discovered she had breast cancer:

I found out three weeks ago I have cancer. I’m 49 years old, have been married for almost 20 years and have two kids. My husband has his own small computer business, and I run a small nonprofit in the San Fernando Valley. I am also an artist. Money is tight, and we don’t spend it frivolously. We’re just ordinary, middle-class people, making an honest living, raising great kids and participating in our community, the kids’ schools and church.

She goes on to explain her path to being on one of the uninsured, the type of tale I’ve read countless times. From traditional employer-provided insurance, a job loss, then taking an entrepreneurial chance before finally succumbing to the effects of the Great Recession. Ward describes the stress after her diagnosis:

Not having insurance amplifies cancer stress. After the diagnosis, instead of focusing all of my energy on getting well, I was panicked about how we were going to pay for everything. I felt guilty and embarrassed about not being insured. When I went to the diagnostic center to pick up my first reports, I was sent to the financial department, where a woman sat me down to talk about resources for “cash patients” (a polite way of saying “uninsured”).

She wants to make very sure that no one thinks her’s is a story of laziness, trying to impart the impact of health’s oftentimes unpredictable turns:

If you are fortunate enough to still be employed and have insurance through your employers, you may feel insulated from the sufferings of people like me right now. But things can change abruptly. If you still have a good job with insurance, that doesn’t mean that you’re better than me, more deserving than me or smarter than me. It just means that you are luckier. And access to healthcare shouldn’t depend on luck.

Then she learns of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a program including in the Affordable Care Act designed to ease the transition for those who cannot get insurance before insurance exchanges are available starting in 2014. As an Obama supporter during the ’08 election, she had long become disillusioned with his effectiveness (or the reality that the Office of the Presidency is not the representation of a High King palace of magic and universal authority), but now has something of an apology:

Which brings me to my apology. I was pretty mad at Obama before I learned about this new insurance plan. I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.

So this is my public apology. I’m sorry I didn’t do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on[…]

I can imagine many different ways to spin this tale – “Obama’s really got my back!” or “Woman gets help at the cost of national liberty and 100 gazillion dollars” – but I’ve seen this in an entirely different light. Lost in the now unending debate over the ACA’s individual mandate was the fact that the law included a laundry list of reforms long-overdue. From Movin’ Meat:

This is just one bit of the law that really matters to people, and that really will make the difference in the lives of so many Americans. And there is so much more. The requirement that insurers must spend 80% of premiums on actual healthcare. The prohibition on insurance “takebacks,” or recissions. The expansion of coverage for kids. The requirement that premium increases must be reasonable and justified. Increased funding for primary care and community health clinics. And on and on.

[…] just pause and take a moment to remember that there is a lot more in this law than the mandate […]

Including many things that people generally like. From my post on ACA polling:

Of course the focus has been mainly on the one things a majority of people don’t like – the individual mandate, and the question over constitutionality will most likely be decided by the Supreme court in the summer of 2012. But until then let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what health care reform has meant for some people. For the supporters and detractors of the ACA, perhaps we should remember that for most the ultimate purpose of reform is to make a certain thing (in this case health care) better. We may fight over the details and direction, but don’t let that conflict obstruct the view of a common goal.


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