Healthcare Is A Right, Not A Privilege: My Thoughts On Mental Illness And The Potential Repeal Of the Affordable Care Act

I have depression. I’ve lived with depression for many years, though I have only sought help for it as an adult on and off since college. I’ve been seeing my current therapist for nearly a year. I’ve also been on anti-depressants since the beginning of the year. I’m lucky in that I have health insurance through my employer, through which I can see my therapist and pay for my medicine without taking a large hit to my wallet.

Healthcare is a right for every citizen, regardless of income, employment status or a pre-existing condition. We all have the right not just to medical care, but quality medical care that does not force us to choose between paying our bills and seeing the doctor. Unfortunately, in this country, healthcare is a privilege for those who are employed or can pay for it out of their pockets. Unless, that is, one has Medicaid or Medicare, which is fraught with its own issues.

The problem is threefold: a) President Trump, during the campaign, made a carte blanche promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without understanding the facts (no surprise there), b) the Republicans have wasted seven years on trying to repeal the ACA when their energies (and our tax dollars) could have been focused on more important matters, and c) the cost of health insurance has been rising steadily over the years, along with other costs, while wages have stagnated.

Does the ACA have issues? Yes. For all of his optimism and idealism about the ACA, President Obama and his administration did not exactly think things through. But I believe that what is broken with the ACA can be fixed. Why throw out the baby with the bathwater? Why throw millions of Americans off a health insurance plan that simply needs tweaking?

The scariest part of the potential repeal of the ACA is those of us who live with a pre-existing condition. If health insurance companies are given the go-ahead to remove an untold number of patients from their rolls because they have a pre-existing condition, this means certain death for some people. A pre-existing condition could mean anything from as simple as my treatment for depression to multiple surgeries or costly medicine that could potentially bankrupt families.

There was a time in my life when I was unemployed and I was still in therapy. But I was paying an out of pocket fee that was much more than the copay when I had employer based insurance. Going to therapy was a necessity, but given that I was living off of unemployment checks and my savings, it was an expensive necessity.

I can say that without a doubt, seeing my therapist on a weekly basis and taking the anti-depressants has allowed me to live a full life, even with the specter of mental illness hanging on my shoulders. But that is only because I have the health insurance. I don’t want to even consider an America where health insurance is a privilege. Because it’s not, it’s a right that belongs to every American citizen and it’s about time that the politicians in Washington DC understood that.

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