HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The ACA’s Human Impact

As scholars work through the details of the Health Care Cases, I hope we don’t miss the monumental importance of the survival of the ACA to ordinary people. For example, during this discussion, a pediatric occupational therapist named Frances called in. She spends her life providing care to kids, but without the ACA, she could not afford to have her retinal melanoma monitored. She says, “the private sector won’t touch me with a ten foot pole,” “every day I fear this thing will start growing,” and then breaks down crying as she says, “I see this ruling as hope, that, every day I can see the kids” (that she treats).

The host then turned to a scholar in health care policy at the American Enterprise Institute, who said, among other things, “we should get away from a specific individual” situation when discussing the law. I imagine the same, repeated response, to any story about crises averted by the 30 million or so people who will gain insurance coverage under the ACA. The next caller, Tom, talked about paying $1400 a month for insurance, pre-Obamacare, getting dropped by his insurer, being a “walking dead man,” and then getting a $297 a month plan under provisions of the ACA. His verdict: “The program saved my life, those five justices saved my life.” The host mercifully spared the AEI scholar from having to respond.

When historians look back at the media circus around this case, perhaps the most shocking thing to them will be how a country could be dragooned into endless discussions of broccoli purchase mandates, crowding out the stories of people like Frances and Tom. No doubt many of the celebrities who orchestrated the discussion have never been without insurance, and can barely imagine what it would be like to lack it. Kudos to WBUR’s On Point for featuring the voices of people who know all too well.

The suffering and the desperation are real, but far too many people don’t speak up.  Thank goodness for the mother of Deamonte Diver, who did: 

In 2007, Maryland’s Medicaid dental-care program came under fire after a Prince George’s County boy died from an untreated tooth infection that spread lethal bacteria to his brain. Five years later, the same system that failed 12-year-old Deamonte Driver is now touted as one of the best in the nation, officials said Wednesday at a children’s dental care panel on Capitol Hill.

Health-care representatives from across the country addressed the state of children’s dental care at the event hosted by Pew’s Children’s Dental Care campaign. Maryland’s efforts at reform, spurred in large part by Deamonte’s death, received top marks in a 2011 Pew Charitable Trusts report released in May.

Change is possible, when those who are treated worst by the current system speak up. [FP]

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