Ben Downing: In Defense Of The ACA

Jun 23, 2017

Just about 2 months ago, my wife and I welcomed our son Malcolm into the world. Thanks to the miracles of modern science, we have the security of knowing Malcolm won’t have the genetic heart disease that killed my father at 52 and my brother at 26.

In the minutes, hours, days, weeks and now months since Malcolm’s birth,  between diaper changes and burping, when I have tuned into the debate about repealing the Affordable Care Act, my thoughts have immediately turned to the millions who wouldn’t be as lucky as Malcolm, if Washington Republicans have their way. In our specific case, often times, the first sign of heart disease is a fatal one. Even if diagnosed and recognized, as it was with my Dad and brother, the costs for care are massive, even with the best coverage. So thanks to modern medical science, which we had access to, my son won’t have a preexisting condition; but thanks to Republicans plans to strip care away from millions of people, my wife, who had a c-section, will.

As I have held Malcolm in the these first days, or watched my wife Micaelah hold him, I am blown away by all I worry about. Every cry, gurgle or snort has us worried something is wrong. Those are the only worries any parent should have. Instead, Washington Republicans would have parents of all ages, senior citizens and nearly every other segment of our society worried that we are one incident, accident or discovery away from bankruptcy or worse.

The 23 million Americans who would lose coverage if Washington Republicans have their way are not its only beneficiaries. Our society as a whole benefits when we work to provide security and opportunity to all.  Who knows how many great entrpenuers have been derailed by medical bills that crushed their dreams and killed their great idea? How many life changing teachers never got to sit in a classroom because they couldn’t afford the preventative care that would have detected their cancer early? How many doctors or researchers never got to find cures or invent treatments because they couldn’t afford the treatment or cure they needed?

It is easy to get lost in the numbers of the healthcare debate. But what is impossible to avoid is that hundreds of thousands of new parents, like Micaelah and I, will hear those first cries, gurgles and snorts and have even more trouble sleeping, for the fear that they can’t afford the cure. What is impossible to avoid is those who have been hit hardest by this recession, will be hit hardest by the removal of the lifeline that the Affordable Care Act provides.  What is impossible to avoid is the fact that women who will pay more simply because they are women. And most personally, though a feeling known and shared by far too many, is that many people in similar situations to my Dad and brother, will have fewer todays and tomorrows with loved ones, because they won’t get care.

Yes, our healthcare system can be much, much better. But it won’t get there by rolling back the progress we have made. It won’t get there by ripping away a lifeline from 23 million of our friends, family members and neighbors. We all deserve far better than that.

Ben Downing Represented the westernmost district in the Massachusetts Senate from 2006 to 2016. He is currently a vice president at Nexamp, a Massachusetts-based solar energy company, and an adjunct faculty member at Tufts University.

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