There have been many scary aspects of this year for me as a healthcare professional. A pandemic, strain to healthcare infrastructure and PPE availability issues were scary enough; yet now healthcare coverage is under attack in a time when there is unprecedented need for its existence.
The current administration’s desire to rescind the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will place a hefty number of Connecticut residents into healthcare limbo. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation as of June 2019, 952,000 Connecticut residents were able to access health coverage because of Medicaid expansion provisions supported by the ACA. Those numbers do not reflect the growing number of eligible residents perpetuated by the current pandemic and economic downturn.
Unemployment in Connecticut reached more than 10% this summer, and although as of September that rate was down to 7.8%, we all know that there is potential, given the ominous current trend in COVID cases here and throughout the country, for those numbers to be soaring again. This may yield a substantial portion of the state that may benefit from or rely on the provisions established within the ACA to meet basic healthcare needs.
Beyond issues of affordability, there is another factor that stands to affect access for a greater swath of Americans and Connecticut residents alike: pre-existing conditions. Now, yes, both parties have said that they will ensure protections for those with pre-existing conditions. The repeal of the ACA, however, takes away those protections currently in place without a solid plan to immediately replace it.
Again, I understand our President says he has a plan, but he also has been telling us for weeks that the pandemic is essentially over. So, without a solid plan, I have some concerns — concerns because as the Kaiser Family Foundation reports, over 500,000 adults in Connecticut and over 50 million adults in this country have pre-existing conditions that predispose them to discrimination if the current protections are dissolved. Please do not forget that the numbers above do not reflect all the children in our country with pre-existing conditions. Their current and continued access to care is in no small part due to the protections provided within the ACA.
A myriad of sequalae come from lack or loss of health care coverage. The emergence of denied access and/or cost prohibitive barriers to maintaining health maintenance measures and the subsequent failure to catch evolving and possibly preventable health issues due to coverage issues cannot be underscored. If money is tight and you have a family to feed, routine care, and perhaps even not-so-routine care, is likely a luxury many will forgo.
Healthcare, however, should not be the luxury item it is in this country or a benefit of stature and wealth. Healthcare should be a common right that all of us enjoy. So, as you make your way to the polls this year, by whatever method makes you most comfortable, remember that your health and the health of millions of others in this country is on the ticket as well.
Megan Fitzsimons lives in East Granby.