When health care isn’t an abstraction

Updated
 

Long-time readers may recall a piece from a year ago, about a young couple in Iowa, who learned the benefits of the Affordable Care Act first hand. When I think about the law possibly being eliminated – either by Republicans on the Supreme Court next week or President Romney next year – I often think about Ross Daniels and Amy Ward, and millions like them.

In this case, Amy accidentally ingested some lake water during a kayaking trip in Minnesota, and in the process, she came down with a rare fungal pneumonia, a life-threatening illness. Amy’s insurance used to have a million dollar lifetime cap on benefits, but the costs of her treatment well exceeded the limit. Thanks to “Obamacare,” the couple wasn’t forced into bankruptcy – the law eliminates lifetime caps.

I’ve kept in periodic touch with Ross over the last year, and I can report that Amy’s health, thankfully, has improved. He told USAction’s Jeff Blum last week he’s concerned about the upcoming court ruling.

“I cannot imagine the stress, grief and guilt Amy would have endured if, as she awoke after nearly 6 weeks in a coma, I had to tell her that everything we had worked for to this point in our lives would be gone – our house, our retirement savings, and that we would likely need to declare bankruptcy. I cannot imagine what life would have been like if the Affordable Care Act were not the law of our land when we took that amazing vacation, a vacation that almost cost Amy her life. […]

“For just one moment, imagine the stress of sitting in intensive care for two months, worrying about how you will pay an immense hospital bill while at the same time praying with your entire being for your partner or child to live against the odds. Please take one short moment to imagine telling your partner, or your child, as they awaken from a coma that through no fault of their own, everything will be gone – no more retirement security, no more college savings for your child, no chance of owning a home again.”

Obviously, Ross and Amy aren’t alone. The New York Times has a gut-wrenching report today on Americans who have pre-existing conditions – many of whom are ill right now – who stand to lose so much if Republicans kill the law.

If the Supreme Court’s ruling goes as expected next week, the right will be celebrating their philosophical victory, but for millions of families, health care isn’t an abstraction, and their fate is tied to the law’s fate.

As I said in September, my expectation has been that these folks would eventually, if the law survives, establish a strong base of support for the Affordable Care Act. When individuals and families are confronted with slick attack ads from professional liars, it’s only natural for them to be skeptical about the merit of the law. It’s a big shift and change can be scary.

But when confronted with a health care emergency, folks aren’t thinking about the latest Republican talking points; they’re thinking about their family’s needs. And when we get past the nonsense, it’s the dreaded “Obamacare” that protects families’ interests in a way the previous, dysfunctional system – the ones Republicans would reinstate – would not.

In time, I suspect, more and more Americans will have real-world experiences with the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and those folks will discover that the far-right repeal effort isn’t such a good idea after all. But the key word in that sentence is “time” – something the law may not have much of.

Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

When health care isn't an abstraction

Updated