Graf: Why we still need to change Obamacare

BY L.C. GRAF | FEBRUARY 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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This is not about my being from Texas.

OK, it’s completely about my being from Texas.

Iowa chose to expand its Medicaid program. Texas did not.

When Obama called for health-care reform, I stood by his side 100 percent. My father works two part-time jobs to feed a family of six; my stepmother can no longer work because of complications from a recent surgery. They don’t receive any benefits, and while my younger siblings are covered under Children’s Health Insurance Program, my father, stepmother, and I are out of luck.

In the past two years I’ve had to use the emergency room three times. The first time was because I contracted scarlet fever and my throat was swollen closed, another time was for a bad fall in which I also chipped my tooth, and a final time for a severe allergic reaction.

Even though using the ER results in costlier bills, it’s far easier to apply for financial assistance through the hospital than to make an appointment to see a doctor when you don’t have insurance.

A lot of people, when I tell them about my issues with health coverage and reluctance to go to Student Health, assume that health care is required for all students at Iowa. This isn’t true, although I did have to show proof of insurance upon first enrolling (I was still covered by Medicaid when I was a freshman). While I can apply for insurance coverage through UI Student Coverage, it isn’t exactly affordable for me to pay out of my own pocket. I can afford to come to this school because of scholarships and grants, and while that helps cover almost everything I need to get by, there are still a lot of my basic needs that are unmet.

So, again, you can imagine how I felt watching Obama push for health-care reform, to hear that health care would finally be in reach for my family and I, and in the end … ObamaCare means very little to me. This isn’t to say that I completely disagree with it. The Affordable Care Act has definitely done a lot of good, such as making sure insurance companies can’t deny coverage for a pre-existing condition, extending coverage to people under the age of 26, and more. However, even though my family lives in poverty, we didn’t qualify for lower costs on health insurance. This is mostly because of Texas’ government unwillingness to expand Medicaid, despite being offered the money to do so by the federal government.

And this is the problem.

There are hundreds more families like mine out there who can’t pay the costs of health care, and while we aren’t required to pay the personal mandate, we’re just left standing in the same spot we’ve always been in.

In order to make a real difference in health care, we need to continue to push for change. The Affordable Health Care Act was the first step, but U.S. health-care costs are still unattainable for the working poor, which are the people that Obama said he was trying to help the most. I’m in the process of applying for Medicaid through Iowa now, but this shouldn’t be an issue that varies so greatly from state to state. We’ve taken a step forward, yes, but the fact of the matter is, we’ve got more work to do.

After all, health care is a right — not a privilege.

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