I am depressed.
And it has nothing to do with Seattle’s gloomy weather or employment volatility.
As a mental health advocate and consumer, I am depressed — borderline apoplectic — about the GOP’s disdain toward the Affordable Care Act. And so should you — regardless of political affiliation.
Shelving partisan labels — at least for a moment, the GOP’s dismantling of the Affordable Care Act is irresponsible. For mental health consumers, the consequences are more pronounced. Affordable treatment, for you and your family, may be in peril.
Before dismissing my statement as unfounded hyperbole, let’s discuss why you should be sick about the prospect of getting sick.
Before Affordable Care Act passage in 2010, nearly 46 million Americans were uninsured. Lacking health insurance, uninsured Americans faced two equally unappealing choices: schedule a doctor’s visit and risk financial hardship or delay a doctor’s visit and jeopardize your health.
Under the free market model, profiteering insurance companies (ironically, many categorize themselves as non-profit for those pesky W-2s) could exclude hard-working Americans from coverage. Insurance companies could — and would — impose lengthy waiting periods for those with a pre-existing condition. And even if you could find coverage through an employer-based plan, you would have to wait a year before any pre-existing condition qualified for coverage. For many Americans — particularly those mired in the Great Recession’s economic spiral, health care was an indulgence — self-care be damned.
And like many of you battered by the Great Recession, I have my own health care tale of woe. Doctors diagnosed me with obsessive-compulsive disorder during my college years. Healthy and happy (at least most of the time), insurance companies — nevertheless — tagged me with a Scarlet Letter. According to their actuarial calculations, it would be more cost-effective (code — profitable) to reject my application. I was too “risky.”
It was inconsequential that my health expenses were minimal. Or that I was a dedicated athlete, infrequent drinker, and health-conscious eater. Frazzled and frantic, my mother and I pounded the (insurance) pavement. Despite our doggedness, the insurance companies offered a standard, callous response: We will insure you for everything except OCD.
When I complained — indignantly–to the insurance company, the well-meaning representative was sympathetic–and, paradoxically, oddly serene. The underlying truism: This is how we — the insurance companies–operate. How do you think we pay for the gleaming new buildings and lavish CEO compensation packages?
And then manna — also known as the Affordable Care Act — arrived. With the Affordable Care Act’s passage, those once-impenetrable walls to quality, affordable health insurance crumbled. With government intervention, I was able to schedule weekly counseling appointments and purchase cost-effective medication without bankrupting my family. And, not surprisingly, my productivity — and overall functionality — soared.
My health care trials and tribulations are a glimpse into the flawed insurance-based paradigm: one that prioritizes profits over people. And while Twitterin’ Trump lauds his latest roundtable with health insurance executives, I have deep misgivings about his repeal and replace ACA bromides. Because of Affordable Care Act passage, nearly two million Americans now receive mental health services for chronic conditions. And, thankfully, there is no rider, qualifying period, or paper chase limiting our eligibility. America’s best prescription: the Affordable Care Act.
And the best medicine for my depression.