Op Ed

The Attack on Affordable Care

Walker, Schimel, Johnson would kill program; 2.4 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions could lose insurance.

By - Aug 26th, 2018 10:29 am

Nurse. Photo by Rebecca20162393 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons [ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Surgical_Nurse_.jpg ]

Nurse. Photo by Rebecca20162393 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I have had a front row seat to the ebb and flow of healthcare coverage in Wisconsin. Over the past 25 years, I have worked in clinics for Wisconsinites without insurance and now manage four such clinics in the Milwaukee area.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, free clinics in the Milwaukee area have had some trouble staying open. One of the clinics I manage lost nearly 1,500 patients because they became insured. And we could not be happier about it. Unfortunately, the current administration is out lauding their efforts to “gut” this bill which both adds to quality of life and saves individual lives.

Over my 25 years working in clinics for Wisconsinites without health insurance, I’ve seen many walk through our doors because of a lack of protection from pre-existing condition clauses in their health care. Patients would come to us, telling shocking stories of insurance companies denying coverage for health, even life-saving care, citing a pre-existing condition.

Patients who were otherwise healthy would be forced to pay out of pocket for their diabetes care. Unable to afford their insulin, some would put their health in danger by spreading a one-month supply of insulin over three months. One woman with cancer was denied coverage because of a history of reporting severe menstrual cramps. Those patients found their way to our clinics, but often not before going broke paying out of pocket.

We witnessed Wisconsinites being forced to decide between paying rent and buying medication out of pocket.  They could stay housed to protect their health and safety now, but see their long term health decline because of inability to pay for needed insulin or other medications.

Insurance companies held all the power before key provisions of the Affordable Care Act were put in place. Regular Wisconsin families lived in fear of economic disaster at the hands of these large corporations that were able to deny or cancel coverage on a whim, or upon receipt of a bad test result.  It’s no wonder why a vast majority of Wisconsinites support the current protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Some Wisconsin politicians have been eager to strip these protections away and return the power to insurance corporations. Senator Ron Johnson has suggested using the canceled August recess in Congress to again attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite their disastrous failure to repeal in July of 2017. I have yet to see him present an alternative as a replacement.

Governor Scott Walker signed off on a lawsuit championed by Attorney General Brad Schimel to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. And now the Trump Administration has declined to defend current law against Schimel’s lawsuit.

If Walker and Brad Schimel are successful, millions of Americans will face economic ruin. The 2.4 million Wisconsinites with a pre-existing condition could be immediately kicked off their plan, no matter how minor the previous injury or how serious the current condition. Young adults, like my daughter who is under the age of 26, will no longer be able to stay on a parents’ health insurance. Over 225,000 Wisconsinites on the individual marketplace could lose coverage. Seniors could see costs of prescriptions balloon. And communities fighting the opioid epidemic could see rates soar as treatment coverage plummets.

I want our free clinics to lose more patients. But, if some politicians have their way, the opposite will happen. Wisconsinites can’t afford the partisanship of Johnson, Walker, and Schimel as they work to reverse the laudable health care access advances we have made as a nation.

Steve Ohly, Manager Aurora Health Care, manages three central city health care clinics for uninsured and underinsured, low-income individuals and families.

Categories: Health, Politics

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