Grateful for Obamacare and Organ Donors by Dr. J Howard Griffith

August 31, 2016

Eleven years ago our 36 year old son, Scott, was a fireman and training for an Ironman Triathlon when he was suddenly stricken with a virus that attacked his heart muscle. It caused a problem called Cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscle. He was in the hospital in critical care the first year for more than six months. As the years passed he was in and out of the hospital on many occasions each year. The fear of that late phone call in the night bearing tragic news was a constant burden. Fortunately he had health insurance at that time.

However the insurance had a life time cap of 2 million dollars. Now that may sound like a lot of money, however it was clear that the medicine and the critical care he was receiving each year was quickly eating through that insurance cap. The future was unclear. What would happen when he reached the 2 million cap? It was clear that his heart muscle was failing. There was only one possible conclusion, he would have to have a heart transplant or die. But at that time, before the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) it was also clear that his insurance would not cover a heart transplant. The cost would have exceeded his insurance cap. Without insurance or a guarantee of payment there would be no surgery. What an agonizing choice, death or bankruptcy.

Fortunately for our son, the Affordable Care Act was passed 4 years ago abolishing life time caps and pre-existing conditions. In February of 2015 his heart dramatically weaken, requiring hospitalization. With just hours to live the surgeons implanted an internal LVAD heart pump that kept him alive until October of 2015 when his heart stopped in the emergency room. Within minutes after getting his enlarged heart beating again, he was placed 1A on the heart transplant list and in 8 days received a heart transplant from a donor in Georgia.

Our family is truly grateful to the donor family for making this incredible gift possible. However the gift of a heart would not have been possible without ObamaCare.

I share this very personal family story to highlight a grave problem. Our nation and state is facing a critical moment in health care coverage. The Republican nominee for president has said that he will eliminate the Affordable Care Act if elected president. That would mean that approximately 40 million citizens would loose their health care coverage. It is estimated that even now, 643,000 people each year declare bankruptcy in the U.S. because of medical expenses. By comparison, the number in other major industrialized countries is zero.

Republicans in Congress have attempted to roll back ObamaCare 60 times without offering a viable alternative. The reality, of course, is other than a single payer system like Medicare, there is no other alternative.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, originally conceived the outline for the Affordable Care Act in opposition to Hillary Clinton’s Health Care proposals during the Clinton Administration. Mitt Romney, when Governor of Massachusetts, borrowed the idea and created RomneyCare to provide health care for residents of Massachusetts. A health care delivery system widely acclaimed by both national experts and Massachusetts residents. The irony is that the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) was based on a Republican concept that is now rejected by virtually every Republican politician.

Major health care expenses are not an abstraction. As with our family, health crises arise when you least expect them. The cost in health, emotional well being and medical expense can be extreme. It is a frighting prospect to face a health crisis without insurance coverage. Yet that is in fact what is in the plans for many of our fellow citizens in Kentucky.

Governor Steve Beshear created our own health exchange called Kynect and expanded Medicaid and in the process extended coverage to more than 500,000 Kentuckians who had not been previously covered. Kynect was heralded as a model for the nation.

Our new Governor, elected by just 16% of the population in Kentucky, has decided to dismantle Kynect and radically change Medicaid coverage. It is estimated that 425,782 individuals will loose their insurance and many individuals (estimated to be 93,687) enrolled in Kynect will face significant disruption in their coverage. That is 519,469 individuals and families who are facing a frighting future without health care.

We can do better in Kentucky. One of the basic building blocks of a state economy is good health care. But the question in the minds of some folk is this, “Is the Affordable Care Act really affordable?” Major health crises are never planned. A car accident, stroke, heart attack, cancer or other catastrophic event can not only disrupt your life with a medical crisis, but lead to both emotional and financial bankruptcy at any stage of life… and without adequate health insurance lead to an early death. No insurance, no health care! Speaking for our family, we are grateful for ObamaCare, because without it’s coverage, our son would have faced an early death.

We have a choice. Either we take the line of least resistance and let many of our fellow citizen face the future with the frightening prospect of no health care and significant medical debt or we provide a health care life line thru Kynect and expanded medicaid coverage so that “more and more Kentuckians will be able to take a stake in their own health care, and all of us will benefit because of it.” (Dustin Pugel, Ky Center for Economic Policy)

Dr. J. Howard Griffith

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