One year ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, helping millions of Americans by drastically improving their lives. Despite the Republican controlled Congress dripping comments that it has been repealed, it has not been repealed. Republicans are working overtime to return to the good ole days when insurance companies could significantly raise premiums at the drop of a hat. But rest assured, President Obama promises to veto any bill coming across his desk to defund health care.
The Affordable Care Act, known as health care reform, has significantly made a positive impact on Americans and particularly, African Americans and minority communities, many of whom lack health insurance. One in 5 African Americans lack health insurance, more than any other group. The law provides African Americans the freedom to get the care they need without seeking primary care from the emergency room. Most importantly, the law provides vital protection for those with pre-existing conditions and provides continuing coverage. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D. MO) said on a recent conference call that he is not sure why so many fought against it, when so many people need it, including those who fought against it. Under the law, it is now illegal to deny health care to children based on pre-existing conditions. With jobs being lost daily and several hundred foreclosures an hour, the African American community should “embrace it with a vengeance” says Rep. Cleaver.
The health care law goes beyond coverage and adds key investments like increasing jobs. 16,000 new primary health care providers, including nurses and physician assistants, will be added over the next 5 years as a result of the law. In addition, Medicare recipients will receive free preventive care, including colonoscopies, mammograms and annual physical x-rays, allowing many persons to get help before life threatening illnesses arise. Physicians who were skeptical about the law have come to understand its benefits. Dr. Deneta Sells, a Georgia based pediatrician has benefited from the tax credits granted to small businesses by the Affordable Care Act. Many practicing physicians are small businesses.
Everyday Americans, who are often silent over the loud clanging of the opponents of Affordable Care, are beginning to speak out. One such person is Renee Ford of Memphis, TN. Renee, a mother of 5 and wife learned about the catastrophic nightmare of being uninsured when her husband needed a kidney transplant. The family was on COBRA at the time at a cost of $1200 a month. Her husband now has to take rejection medicine for his kidney transplant at a monthly cost of $2400 for the rest of his life. No insurance will cover him due to his pre-existing condition. The only coverage her family could find would cost $2400 a month with a $25,000 deductible. Presently, she is “very excited about health care reform because there’s hope.” And that hope comes from knowing that she and her family will be able to join the high risk pool health exchange and finally receive quality affordable care. Ms. Ford says others like her may be silent but they’re out there.
The full impact of the law is unknown as many of the provisions have yet to go into effect. While children with pre-existing conditions and young adults from ages 18-26 have been helped to remain on their parents’ coverage, the vast majority of persons uninsured a year ago are still uninsured today, due to delayed provisions. With lawsuits flying over the constitutionality of the act, it is not known if the Affordable Care Act will survive. Courts are split on the issue of whether the law is constitutional. 27 states have joined in over 20 lawsuits arguing that the mandate requiring Americans to purchase insurance is unconstitutional. Undoubtedly, the case will end up in the Supreme Court. With 5 Republican appointed justices and 4 Democratic appointed justices, it will be a close call. Until then, affordable health care is the law.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer and legal and political commentator. She is frequently seen in the media speaking on legal and political issues affecting women and African Americans. She also writes for the Huffington Post. She holds a Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School and a BA from the University of PA.