As of the beginning of this year, a reported nine million Americans are insured in one form or another under the ACA, aka Obamacare. In addition, you can no longer be denied coverage for a preexisting condition, young people can stay on their parents’ insurance plans, and many women now get their birth control for free.
According to the LA Times, “Not counted are people who have signed up for ACA-compliant health plans directly through their insurers instead of through the exchanges,” like me. So ostensibly, those numbers are even higher.
These are all amazing strides for our nation. Say what you will about Obamacare and its kinks and website issues and people getting their plans canceled; we are making strides. But not enough. If you believe, as yours truly does, that, as a modern society, all our citizens have a right to life, then you’ll be saddened to know that there are still far too many Americans not covered by the ACA and who are struggling without healthcare still.
This is because 25 states (Red States, if you’re wondering) have refused the Medicaid expansion, after the Supreme Court ruled they didn’t have to, and left some 5 million of their residents without any form of heath care, 5 million residents who desperately need it most.
The Atlantic recently profiled some of these people. People like Claudia, Dallas, TX resident and mother of seven, who cannot afford private insurance. She’d hoped she’d be covered under the ACA.
But a few months ago, she arrived at a community meeting at the Irving public library to find that because she makes less than the federal poverty level, she does not qualify for the federal government’s subsidies to buy insurance. (The subsidies to buy insurance on the newly created exchanges only go to people who make 100 percent of the federal poverty level or more.) Without the subsidy, the family’s premium for a mid-level “silver” health plan on the exchange would be roughly $5,000 per year.
In Texas, Claudia is too poor to be covered or to cover her family.
And then there is Mark Oswald, a 61-year-old unemployed carpenter who lives at the Galveston Salvation Army, ” where he shares a room with 13 other men and is prohibited from staying between 7 and 5 each day.”
He is dying of cancer (he has a tumor at the base of his tongue) and, despite the Galveston Indigent Care Program, which is doing its best, he doesn’t have access to a specialist and obviously cannot afford care out of pocket, “which ranges from $30,000 to $70,000.”
Mark is unemployed and homeless and, therefore, too poor to live.
Reminds me of something a well known Dickens character said, when asked to give money to the poor, “If they would rather die, . . . they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Prescient, no? Or perhaps we haven’t improved our attitudes toward the poor in 150 years or so.
No matter the war on the poor in this nation, no matter the incessant need to vilify those in poverty and unemployed and, heaven forbid, anyone who ever receives any kind of governmental assistance, I argue that we, as modern humans, have a duty to care for those most in need.
I really don’t see any pride in a place that ravenously worships those who had the dumb luck to be born into wealth and advantage and privilege, while assigning the title of Scum of The Earth to those who had the misfortune to be born into poverty or who lost life-long jobs and then got cancer or who work three minimum wage jobs and have the audacity to still apply for SNAP benefits because they dare feed their children.
That’s not a place that I’d call “Land of the Free.”
Ironically, I believe it was a fellow named Jesus who espoused feeding the poor and healing the sick. Ironic because those states, those Red States, who refuse to expand Medicaid, who are leaving 5 million Americans without access to health care, those are the ones who claim to be led by the most righteous, the most Christ-like.
Funny how that works.