Following the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ACA or Obamacare, in 2010, thousands of US residents and citizens have been able to access health insurance either through Medicare/Medicaid or through the private market with the assistance of subsidies based on income. Everyone 18 years of age or older is able to (and must do so, or pay a fine) enroll in a health insurance program, except for undocumented immigrants, who are excluded. In California, however, State Senator Ricardo Lara (D) is pushing the passage of SB 1005 Health Care for All, which would allow access to health care to undocumented immigrants through state monies.
To deal with back pain, fevers, colds, or any other illness or symptom, Aura relies on a variety of over-the-counter pills and medications. When I visit her home, she comments on new medication she has seen on television that will help alleviate the pain in her hands and joints, a result of the heavy janitorial labor she completes to make ends meet. At work, she has taken a fall more than once, only to get up and visit her local Botanica (herb-based pharmacy) to buy back brace and teas to make the pain, which could be a result of a variety of reasons, bearable. With access to health insurance, this undocumented woman could afford the professional opinion of a trained physician instead of leaving her wellbeing to chance.
When Inez started showing symptoms of a returning psychosis, her family could do nothing but wait until the situation worsened to merit an emergency room visit. Without papers, medical help and mental aid was not accessible, even if all of Inez' family members financially contributed to the effort. When Inez disappeared one day and returned home to explode in an incoherent rage, her family was finally able to commit her into a mental health institution. They, however, did not have a say as to where Inez would be taken and who would take her case. With access to affordable health insurance, Inez could have gotten proper treatment at an earlier stage and her family could have avoided the traumatical experience of "abandoning" their relative into the hands of a system they could have no say in.
In my own experience, I think of what would have happened if I had no access to health insurance the two times a fever got out of control and I decided to seek medical attention at a hospital. For both visits, I was able to give a co-pay and set up a payment plan for my portion of the expenses after being discharged. No health insurance would have resulted in my acquiring for debts in the ten thousands. By no means are ACA and CoveredCA perfect. I have found it difficult to get information on my status due to long wait times, and website difficulties and even with co-pays, I still find medical attention obscenely expensive. But how much more difficult would my financial situation been without health insurance? How would my inability to cover my bills and seek preventive medical attention affect you? We are a community. And because of that, health care should be accessible to all.
[Names have been changed.]
[Picture from the internet.]