Tom Donnely, his body unnaturally twisted into a knot of limbs, lay immobile in the middle of the road. The wet, jagged asphalt dug into his face as he glimpsed the pale headlights zooming forward through the downpour. His life didn’t flash before his eyes; he didn’t see a blinding white light; he just hoped it would be painless.
In Greenwich Hospital, Connecticut, he awoke to find a stroke paralyzed the right side of his body. Thankfully after his collapse, no other injuries occurred, but now another challenge faced him. Insurance.
He worked two jobs and barley made enough money to rent a one bed apartment and feed himself. Medicaid saved his life. Medicaid is a public assistance program which pays for medical insurance for low income individuals. Federal and State funds from taxes allow for these suffering poor individuals to receive life-saving medical treatment. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed in 2010 by the Obama administration, greatly enlarged this program to protect over 20 million more individuals. Tom Donnely signifies only one of the many millions of individuals saved by this program.
So what is actually the Affordable Care Act?
If your sitting on your couch, scratching your head at the ACA. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. A study by Carnegie Mellon found that 86% of Americans between the age of 25 and 64 have even the faintest idea of what the Affordable Care Act does. The main purpose of this act is to make health insurance more affordable (obviously!). To perform this feat, the government offers individuals under a certain income level tax credits (which are refunds) on the government health care plans. The rule book for insurance companies has also changed. Previously, you could be turned away by insurance companies due to your preexisting conditions. Let’s say you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) an insurance agency could have declined to have even accept you as a client. With ACA, this process is illegal.
The government offers four different health care plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Bronze is the cheapest, but the insurance only covers 60% of the medical bills, while Platinum is the most expensive but covers 90%.
However, Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, attacked this plan, calling it “very bad health insurance… [and f]ar too expensive.” Yes, ACA increases the rates of taxes, but the expense of this program in 2014 remained well below the price projected by the Congressional Budget Office writes Paul Krugman, a notable economist.
Locally, Houston funds a number of Women, Children, and Infant (WIC) clinics. These places provide medical benefits to pregnant women and children under the age of five who are all under are under a certain income level. For a family of one member, if the individual makes below $22,311 annually, they qualify for this program. To put this in perspective, Saint John’s tuition costs $27,545 per year, and, according to Datausa, 42.5% of Houstonian annually make $30k or less. The ACA expanded the coverage of programs like these WIC clinics to encompass more of the overwhelming population of economically struggling families.
No, this plan is far from perfect, yet a total repeal without a suitable replacement, though it might raise taxes, throws out millions of Americans’ safety net. Medicaid coverage allowed Tom Donnely to receive the proper, life-saving treatment. Let’s allow for more people like Tom to get a second chance at life.