Not having health insurance is a nightmare.
That’s why I thought of The Nephew when news broke last week that the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled to preserve the Affordable Care Act.In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled that the federal government can continue to subsidize premiums payments for people who want insurance through the federal exchange, even when their state doesn’t offer an exchange.
On Thursday after the Supreme Court announcement, President Barack Obama took to the White House Rose Garden for his victory lap. “This generation of Americans chose to finish the job — to turn the page on a past when our citizens could be denied coverage just for being sick. To close the books on a history where tens of millions of Americans had no hope of finding decent, affordable health care; had to hang their chances on fate.”
The critics sneer “ObamaCare,” as though it were a malevolent disease infecting America’s life and limb.But for millions of uninsured Americans like The Nephew, ObamaCare is a lifeline. The Nephew arrived in the spring of 2014. My ex-sister-in-law dispatched the 20-year-old to Chicago from Phoenix to live with Aunt Laura and Uncle Mike. “I have done my best,” she declared.
He arrived a strapping, brown-skinned young man, on the cusp of adulthood. He arrived with an irresistible grin, an obsession with video games, and an indecipherable Facebook page.
We got a crash course in what it’s like to have a young one at home. Now, I can handle the sleeping ‘till noon and his slatternly room.
No health insurance is another matter.
He landed a job in a restaurant; it pays minimum wage and no benefits. While Obamacareallows children to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26, in The Nephew’s parents had no viable insurance at the time.
The Nephew could have cared less, of course, as the “immortal” young tend to do. But I had nightmares about a car accident or some other medical emergency, racing him to a hospital, then being turned away for lack of insurance.
Many low income people in Chicago share that fear.
I learned about CountyCare, Cook County’s version of Medicaid, which was expanded under the Affordable Care Act. It provides low-cost, even free health care for low-income residents.
We got The Nephew signed up. In a month, he found a doctor in the neighborhood, and got a full physical. He’s just fine.
So are we. No more fears that a medical crisis will empty our bank accounts.
In a statement, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called the Supreme Court ruling “a godsend.” The Medicaid expansion has saved county taxpayers $200 million a year, and more than 180,000 patients are currently enrolled in CountyCare, she said. “Now, for the first time in its history, our health system has more insured patients than uninsured patients.”
Most red states have not embraced Medicaid expansion. The Supreme Court previously ruled that states could opt out of the Medicaid expansion to low-income adults. As of March of this year, 29 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the expansion, while 22 states are not at this time, according to a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Pushing to change that is the next frontier.
The Nephew’s covered. I still don’t know what to do about that room.
Follow Laura Washington on Twitter: @MediaDervish