The United States Supreme Court announced its decision last week to uphold the fundamental tenets of the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act (Public Law 111-148). Since this proposal was introduced by the Obama Administration in 2009, like many others, I have followed the progress of this effort to reform America’s healthcare system. As the debate was just getting started in Congress with regard to healthcare legislation, my family and I faced our own healthcare crisis, which has had a significant impact on my thinking about healthcare as an issue of national significance.
Shortly before the September 2009 introduction of the Affordable Care Act, an unexplained lump appeared near the right ear of my then six-year old son, Alex. Not long after, we received a preliminary diagnosis indicating that the cause appeared to be lymphoma, a form of cancer that strikes the lymph nodes. As you can imagine, my wife and I were immediately consumed with doing whatever needed to be done to respond to this news.
Thankfully, the health insurance provided by my employer allowed us to seek out the very best possible medical care, provided through the caring and clinically-experienced professionals at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System. My wife Patty and I never had to worry about whether we could afford the recommended tests or surgical procedures. Ultimately, the medical bills associated with this episode—from start to finish—were just under $50,000. Of this cost, everything was covered by our health insurance, minus a total of $20 in co-pays for initial doctor/specialist visits. As such, our family was able to rely on access to the best quality of care possible to help treat our son in his hour of need, without worry of having a financial crisis as a result of treatment expenses.
Throughout this time, however, I could not help but think of the millions of American citizens who were not as fortunate as my family. If a family lacking healthcare access got the sad news that we did, what could they do about it? What resources would an uninsured child have to get the care needed to fight off lymphoma or any other disease?
Thankfully, in early October 2009, we received the happy news that the lump that Alex had was not lymphoma, and he was given a clean bill of health. Yet, as the debate over whether the ultimately successful healthcare bill raged, my family’s experience casts a new light onto the importance of real reform. I had hoped that people across the political spectrum could agree that no American family should have to live in fear of facing the illness of a loved one without access to quality medical care.
Even though the Affordable Care Act was ultimately signed into law, until last week its future was in doubt. Many still question the wisdom of aspects of the law. I simply caution doubters to consider what it would be like to have the experience that my family did, absent health insurance. Because I wouldn't wish such a fate on anyone, I believe that healthcare reform was the right thing to do.