By Barby Ingle, Columnist
With everything going on with the American Health Care Act (AHCA), there is a lot of anxiety and stress over possible changes to our health coverage.
There were people who took to social media to start their protests before all of the facts were in. I have yet to read the actual bill and when I reached out to others who were commenting on it -- as if they read it and knew what was in it – well, they have not read it yet either.
So I kept looking and found an interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan, which talked about the biggest concern most of us have – pre-existing conditions. Before the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) became law, people with pre-existing conditions paid several times more than others — if they could afford or be approved for a policy in the first place.
The latest version of the ACHA passed by the House would allow states to seek waivers from existing federal law and create “high risk pools” that would allow insurers to charge more for pre-existing conditions if someone lets their insurance lapse.
To help combat the increased premiums and out-of-pocket costs, GOP Reps. Fred Upton (MI) and Billy Long (MO) crafted a provision to provide $8 billion to states to help fund high risk pools or subsidy programs for people with pre-existing conditions. It would be left to each individual state to decide how to spend the money.
If you have a pre-existing condition, what can you do? First, contact your state legislators and make sure that your health conditions are covered under any pool or subsidy program. It is up to us to raise our voices, share our stories, and demand that our lawmakers remember us and our conditions as they move forward.
Luckily for us, there are many steps to go in this process and we don’t know what the outcome will be. The U.S. Senate still has to vote on the ACHA and is likely to make changes. It is also important to note that the House version of the ACHA does not spell out what sort of pre-existing conditions insurers may cover if states seek a waiver. In the past, some insurers identified domestic violence, sexual assault, caesarean birth and postpartum depression as grounds for denying coverage or charging higher premiums.
Letting ourselves drown in hearsay, low expectations of the current administration, and sharing information that is not accurate to make a point is not going to fix or change anything. It will only cause us anxiety, stress and energy pennies that as chronically ill patients we don’t have the ability to recover from.
Is it time to act? YES. Is it time to over-react? NO. The water is rising, but it’s only up to our knees and we’re still standing. Before the tide comes in further, make sure you are doing what you can to be heard and in ways that will matter for our pain communities. VOTE, make phone calls, be willing to testify in person if needed, answer calls from the media to discuss how the ACHA will affect you if the conditions you are living with are not covered.
Don’t exaggerate or give false information about a list of pre-existing conditions that won’t be covered. Remember, each state will decide what pre-existing conditions will be included if they get the waiver granted. Instead, bring to light that our healthcare costs are already higher than healthy patients, because we have more doctor visits and treatments, and are paying more in out of pocket costs.
Our options are already limited and we need to have a seat at the table of decision makers. We can get that by being factual and accurate, and by voting for people who will remember our stories.
Barby Ingle lives with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), migralepsy and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found at her website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.