By Rachael Fulreader
For some people, going to a primary care physician is like doing taxes. It happens annually, you have very little idea of what is happening for most of the experience, and a stranger asks about everything from your finances to your relationship status. It involves needles and exposes all of our failed New Year’s resolutions. However, this annual barrage of questions and prodding is not only critical to preventing diseases and managing current conditions, but it is the foundation of the United States’ healthcare system. The United States operates under a Primary Care model, meaning that Americans have access to a primary care provider that has knowledge of the patient’s health history, manages chronic conditions, and provides preventative and diagnostic care. This “healthcare home” has a critical role in preventing Emergency room visits and hospital stays, managing and preventing many public health crises, and providing a base and support system for patients to navigate the healthcare system.
The role of primary care cannot be overstated. However, in order for this foundation to persist we must have enough patients that are able to access primary health services and physicians. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, and more Americans lose insurance, this primary care model could be under direct attack. No one is standing in front of a crowd saying Obamacare is perfect, and even Obama himself admits that the act has problems. However, this act successfully brought healthcare to millions that previously did not have access. Repealing without a backup plan or establishing a new plan that would result in more uninsured Americans than Obamacare is regression. Denying millions of Americans health insurance will result in increased public health disasters, costs for all, and disease and even death. The face of these millions include refugees, residents in nursing care facilities, and patients who use Federally Qualified Health Centers, clinics almost entirely funded by the government. Without insurance Americans will be forced to seek care from the only place that will accept them: Emergency Departments. The smell of vomit from the next room over and the uncanny feeling you are sitting on a party of pathogens are not the only hazards of a healthcare system that provides the Emergency room as the only option. Trips to departments staffed 24/7 with physicians and technology is far more expensive than a trip to a primary care office with 9-6 hours and a blood pressure cuff, and everyone with insurance will be paying for those without insurance. Whether that comes from a federal plan, like the Affordable Care Act, or increased health insurance costs the hospitals need finances to continue to provide care. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, without a better plan, is dangerous. People could become more debilitated and die with less access to primary care. This repeal seems to be motivated by petty politics and politicians willing to use humans as pawns in their political chess game. Although, unlike chess, people are more than plastic pawns and need care. What is that sweet older man you sit next to everyday on the train going to do when he can no longer see his physician every so often to manage his hypertension? What is your grandmother going to do when she can no longer see the PA she loves every month to make sure her diabetes is managed? What is your sister and your friend going to do when they can no longer afford birth control? What are you going to do?
This repeal on the Affordable Care act is an attack on the American healthcare system. It is the federal government devaluing lives to play a political game. It is a way to slowly destroy those without the funds to make their life valuable in the eyes of those who hold the strings of the system. Unlike the federal government, health does not discriminate. Everyone: rich, poor, black, white, Muslim, Christian NEEDS healthcare, DESERVES healthcare, has a RIGHT to healthcare. This action, this denial of a right, is not acceptable and not defendable. The current administration is responsible for every disability and death that occurs because of this repeal. In the upcoming weeks the administration has the immense responsibility to ensure those currently insured stay insured and any plan to change the Affordable Care Act increases the number of insured Americans. Please, federal government, make the right choice and devise (or keep) a plan that gives people access to healthcare and the increased quality of life that healthcare can provide.
Rachael is a Biology major and a Public Health and Spanish double minor.