Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, Republican lawmakers have been calling for its repeal. And while they have yet to be successful, it looks increasingly likely that Republican lawmakers will again try to dismantle the law. With a president-elect who already has vowed to prioritize its repeal, I am forced to think about how my family’s life will change without it.
Two years ago, my husband and I were expecting our first child. At the time, we were self-employed as small-business owners and could not afford the high costs of health insurance. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, we found an affordable plan on the marketplace. Suddenly, all my prenatal care was covered. The pregnancy was completely normal and uneventful, just as every parent hopes. But then the unexpected happened.
No one wants to face the devastation of their baby being born with life-threatening medical problems, but that is exactly what happened to us. Our son, Sam, was born with multiple congenital birth defects, none of which could be detected before he was born. He was rushed by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland when he was just two days old; the pediatric surgeons there saved his life. The medical bills in his first month of life alone topped $100,000. Within his two years of life, Sam was seen by nearly a dozen specialists, and he’s gone through 20 tests and procedures to ensure his health remains stable.
Sam is now a thriving, happy 2-year-old who seems just like any other kid his age. His health care needs, however, require a team of pediatric specialists to care for him throughout his entire childhood. The protections the Affordable Care Act has provided our family ensure that we have been able to get him the tests, medicines, therapies and doctor visits he needs to stay healthy. The Affordable Care Act ensures he can never be denied coverage and that our family is not charged exorbitant premium fees and high deductibles because of his medical needs. It means he will never face lifetime limits in coverage for conditions he has had since birth. The Affordable Care Act has been critical to how well he is doing today.
An unforeseen medical crisis can happen to anyone. We didn’t think it could happen to us, but when it did the Affordable Care Act was there to protect us from bankruptcy and immense medical debt. It would have been impossible to navigate my son’s medical issues without health insurance.
No one should face financial ruin because they need medical care. And no one should be forced to go without the medical care they need. It would be irresponsible for our representatives in Washington to pull the rug out from under tens of thousands of people in Maine and millions of people around the country, who have health care because of the Affordable Care Act. I know how it would affect my son’s life if that were to happen, and it would be devastating for him and our family.
We need a common-sense plan to ensure that everyone, including the most vulnerable, can see a doctor when they need to. Supporting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would drastically damage the lives of children and families like mine. There are thousands of children and adults with complex medical needs in Maine who are protected by the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Tearing these provisions apart, taking away affordable premiums and creating uncertainty around access to medical care is not the way to build strong, stable communities in our state. As Mainers, we must be able to count on our representatives in Congress to uphold the protections and access that the Affordable Care Act has provided.
Alyce Ornella is a job developer for an employment services company. She lives in Harpswell.