Imagine you are a hard-working mother of five diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Your body is under attack, your energy depleted, and your mind saddened by just how much life has changed. You are fighting through the nauseating effects of chemotherapy and afraid others will know you are wearing a wig. All the while, you are doing everything you can to be there for your kids knowing that they need you. Your treatment is only possible because you purchased a health care plan through the Affordable Care Act exchange. Now, you are at risk of losing your health insurance because of a recent ruling by Judge Reed O’Connor on Texas vs. United States that the Afforadable Care Act is unconstitutional.
As a physician in Texas, I attest that this is a real story, as is the potential harm to millions due to the assault on healthcare.
Health care is a human right that everyone deserves, no matter the person’s age, race, gender or sexual identity. Taking away a patient’s access to health care is morally flawed.
This year, approximately 1.1 million Texans enrolled in health coverage through the Texas exchange, according to healthinsurance.org, and 9 out of 10 received federal subsidies, an average of $ 475 per month, to purchase health insurance. The recent court decision not only threatens the lives of these Texans, but it also would strip health insurance from more than 17 million people across the country according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute. This would be catastrophic.
And the decision disproportionally affects vulnerable members of society. That includes people earning under 138 percent of the poverty line in the 36 states that have expanded Medicaid, college students who have been able stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, and people with preexisting conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The court decision also negatively impacts public health, as the Affordable Care Act includes funding to combat the opioid epidemic, which is ravaging our country.
Health is invaluable. Research shows that healthier people are generally happier and healthy workers are more productive than those who are unhealthy. Plain and simple, it’s hard to stay healthy in this country without access to health insurance unless you are very wealthy.
This latest attempt to deconstruct the Affordable Care Act leads to a broader question about the broken health care system in our country. Last year, we spent $ 3.5 trillion dollars on health care, according to U.S. government data, far more than any other nation. That is roughly equivalent to paying every public-school teacher’s salary for six years and owning Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and the Dallas Cowboys combined.
Yet, despite this significant investment in health, our national health care system is ranked 37th in the world in overall performance according to the World Health Organization, behind that of Dominica and Costa Rica. We need to improve the efficiency and quality of care that we provide in the United States while reducing the cost.
I understand that the specifics of health care policy are complex and there are differences in opinion about the individual mandate. But let’s not forget that we are talking about real lives. These include mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters.
I chose my profession because I believe health care is a basic human right, and it allows me to serve those whose rights are now imperiled. Every American has the right to health. Taking it away from our countrymen is un-American.
Hussain Lalani is a physician in Texas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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