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The holes in health care

Dr. Anna Gladstone, a United Methodist living in Detroit, talks about health care fixes.

Detroit Conference laywoman

As I tried to explain the complexity of the U.S. Healthcare system to my Canadian med student, her eyes widened. “But what if she has to go to the ER and still doesn’t have insurance?” Nodding in agreement, I replied, “Well, she will get the full bill. It will go to collections if she cannot pay and probably bankrupt her.” I felt like a class-a jerk explaining that to her.

She was appalled, and rightfully so.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made it so that people with insurance never had to ask that question. Essential health benefits, one of which is emergency services, have made health insurance plans more complete. Removing these benefits from law would return us back to a time when even insured folks experiencing stroke-like symptoms might question whether they can afford to go to the hospital or not. They can’t. If they don’t go, they could die. Americans, insured or not, should NEVER have to ask this life or death question.

The United States still has one of the highest infant mortality rates of the developed world. Even with medicaid programs like MOMS, I had a new patient come see me for prenatal care at 37 weeks, she had not seen anyone else during this pregnancy. When I asked her what took her so long to seek care she stated “I didn’t have insurance.” She is not the only one.

As a family physician in a Federally Qualified Health Center, I have seen how the ACA has benefited the most vulnerable.

As Jesus said in Matthew 22:36, “I was sick and you looked after me.” It is that simple. It does not have any caveats. There is no mention of the cost of taking care of the sick in the Bible, it simply says to do it.

We cannot go backwards.

The health care delivery system in this country is not fixed. We have plugged up some of the holes. Essential health benefits, expansion of Medicaid, and coverage of preexisting conditions has and continues to save American lives from unnecessary and premature death. We need to start working to fix some of those other holes in the system instead of making new ones.

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