Dr. Cynthia Brooke, Grand Forks, column: For a ‘dirty word,’ Obamacare does lots of goodI am not a politician. I am an OB/GYN doctor who had been in practice since 1990, and what I bring to the discussion is the experience of a health care provider. In that capacity, I support the ACA because I feel it is a giant step forward for patients.
By: Cynthia Brooke,
By Cynthia Brooke
GRAND FORKS — The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, seems to have become a dirty word. Supposedly, it’s a government overreach bringing us one step closer to an oppressive nanny state.
I am not a politician. I am an OB/GYN doctor who had been in practice since 1990, and what I bring to the discussion is the experience of a health care provider.
In that capacity, I support the ACA because I feel it is a giant step forward for patients. I am far from alone, as such medical associations as the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Practitioners, Doctors for America and many other medical groups support the act.
I did my residency in a large county hospital in south Texas. At that time, it was not unusual for an intern to perform 100 deliveries a month. The ER was equally busy, and as a second-year resident, I was required to see back-to-back patients during 36-hour shifts.
No one ever slept because there was never enough of “us,” and there was always too many of “them,” the patients. On one occasion, a criminal was running around the ER, threatening people with a gun. The charge nurse told him he’d better sit down with that gun because we had patients lined up to be seen, and we didn’t have the time for such nonsense. He did just that until the security guards came.
We never could stop for any reason, because we saw all the patients who didn’t have insurance, and they had nowhere else to go.
I remember becoming quite cynical in those days. Why was this happening? Didn’t anyone care? Why was an already overburdened and understaffed hospital expected to fix all these societal problems?
We were out of sight and out of mind.
Twenty years later, I had given up on the idea that the United States ever would do anything about the problem. We Americans just didn’t have the will. Meanwhile, I saw families declare bankruptcy because they had a child with leukemia or special needs or had a relative paralyzed in an auto accident. They had reached their lifetime maximum on their health insurance.
I saw patients who could not afford basic preventive care or cancer screening, as well as many who fell through the cracks because they earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to buy insurance. There were patients with pre-existing conditions who could not qualify for insurance and elderly patients who could not afford their prescriptions.
Amazingly, all of this has been addressed by the Affordable Care Act. No legislation is perfect, but this law goes a long way.
Thanks to the diligence of Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and other Democratic legislators across the country, North Dakota has received millions of dollars to strengthen its health care system, and every patient in North Dakota benefits.
For example, health care plans now are required to let parents cover their children up to age 26. This has benefited 2.5 million young adults nationwide and 3,593 young people in North Dakota.
ACA bans insurance companies from imposing a lifetime cap on health benefits. This frees patients with cancer and other serious illnesses from worry about benefits ending before treatment is complete.
ACA bans insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. It requires private insurance and Medicare to cover preventive care without co-pays. And seniors now are saving $593 per person annually on prescription drugs; also, by the year 2020, the gap in prescription-drug coverage known as the donut hole will be closed.
The new law requires that insurance companies can pay up to only 20 percent of earnings for executive bonuses or marketing.
These and other changes will result in affordable premiums, so that millions of uninsured Americans — including 21 million children — will be covered by insurance.
I encourage Herald readers to get the facts and make up their own minds. Two useful websites are the Doctors for America website, www.drsforamerica.org, and the official Affordable Care Act site at HealthCare.gov
Read the facts, then decide for yourself if Obamacare is a dirty word.
Dr. Brooke is an obstetrician/gynecologist in Grand Forks.