Why I Support Health Care Reform: Voices of the Defense

 

They came marching, chanting, stomping to the beat of drums and the blare of a brass band — doctors, nurses, the elderly and the chronically ill.

After two years of watching people protest a piece of legislation they had struggled for decades to pass, hundreds of pro-health reform demonstrators decided it was time to do a little protesting of their own. So they arrived at the steps of the Supreme Court Monday morning just in time for the media circus that would accompany the first day of oral arguments in the health care reform lawsuit.

“We love Obamacare,” they screamed. “We love Obamacare, yes we do!”

On Monday, the NewsHour brought you some of the voices from a weekend Tea Party Patriot rally on Capitol Hill. Today: the defense.

 

Dr. Luella Toni Lewis, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Lewis: “I came out today because this is historic. I’m a board-certified physician in family medicine and geriatrics, and what this law has been able to do in two short years is amazing in terms of bringing about health equity. As a geriatrician, I hear all of the stuff about death panels and rationing, and it’s really concerning. Because this law is really about providing the best care that we can. It’s not about a panel of bureaucrats in Washington deciding whether or not granny will die. That’s never been set up — it’s not a part of the law. That’s a myth and it’s a lie. And we need to stop scaring our seniors.

“But what I hear even more than the rumors is that people are really scared that they won’t be able to afford health care in the future. I hear a lot of personal stories that really just break my heart — that people have to choose between rent or food or health care. And this law really helps to break down some of those barriers.”

Marlys Cox, St. Petersburg, Fla.

Cox: “Let me tell you first of all, I know Ed McMahon’s never going to knock on my door with a big check because I’ve already had my share of million-in-one chances. When I was a young teenager, I was bitten by a barracuda on an international trip and needed a blood transfusion. I wasn’t diagnosed with Hepatitis C until I was in my mid-40s, but I believe I contracted the disease from that transfusion. After the diagnosis is when all the trouble started. My husband left me and l was forced to go on a Cobra plan because my health insurance had been through his job. My payments eventually jumped from $300 a month to $1,100, and I finally couldn’t afford it anymore, so I dropped insurance altogether. Just as soon as I dropped the insurance, that’s when I found out I had cancer.

“So this law has already saved my life because I was able to register for a pre-existing condition insurance plan for $376 per month as opposed to the $1,100 I was paying before. I would not have been able to see a doctor or never would have been able to pay for cancer treatment without giving up everything I owned and living in my car. And I think a lot of people don’t realize how helpful this law is. Even $376 is a lot to pay, but in a couple of years, that will become lower for everybody, whether you’re sick or not. I know I’m going to be fine now.”

Glenn McGarvey, Stratford, Conn.

McGarvey: “As a nurse, I feel like everyone needs health care coverage. I’ve worked for about 20 years in psychiatry, and I feel like a lot of the psychiatric patients are falling through the cracks in terms of getting medical treatment that they need. I worked with a patient who had severe psychiatric disabilities as well as medical disabilities connected to her psychiatric illness. And because she was so difficult psychiatrically and had difficulty following her medical treatment, her physician essentially fired her and decided he was not going to accept Medicaid patients any longer. There are provisions in the new health care bill that are going to make sure that’s maintained — the correlation between helping people with mental illness and physical illnesses. What we have is not working.”

Ellena and William Young and their son, Live, Albany, N.Y.

Ellena Young: “I’m a three-time cancer survivor, so I’ve always hit the pre-existing conditions clause. I wanted to come today in support of this legislation that’s taken 40 years to get on the table. The hurdles that health insurance companies do with their premiums and their annual caps have restricted me from the proper access to care throughout my life. Because of my pre-existing condition, I’ve been cut from coverage, denied prescription coverage, hit every hurdle imaginable. My son was born with medical conditions, as well — he has a seizure disorder, a genetic disorder and he’s immune-compromised — so this piece of legislation will affect him forever if it’s overturned.

“When I was pregnant with him, it was a very complicated pregnancy to the point where I almost lost him. And I developed life-threatening blood clots and couldn’t afford the $1,000 a month for blood thinners. I don’t want him to go through those same kinds of hurdles. The Affordable Care Act means he gets treated. This is not socialism — it’s humanism. For those who criticize the law, look at your own family and think about if they had a catastrophic illness and hit their annual cap and you weren’t able to receive that care. Would you be screaming socialism? You would want health care, and you shouldn’t be denied this very basic right.”

Doris Braley, Twin Cities, Minn.

Braley: “I believe in Obamacare. I like that youth can be on it longer. I remember when our daughters graduated from college, way, way back. We had to get individual insurance until they went and got their own. So this, I think, is so great because there is a time between their graduation and when they can get on it. I am also an advocate for Medicaid. I think sometimes it gets abused — people get on it and they don’t get off. But there are times even in my volunteer job when we have to put people on it to save a life. And to me, that’s important, especially a child.”

The Rev. Jonas Georges, Miami, Fla.

Georges: “I like that this law provides for the people who are uninsured. Many of them will be able to be covered if it remains how it is. I am originally from Haiti and a lot of people in my church are immigrants who are not able to really pay for their own health care because they can’t afford it. With this plan now, there is hope that many of them will be able to get covered. Medically, Haiti and the United States are two different worlds. In Haiti, there is the possibility that one can always find some sort of health care where it is available. It is not the best there is, but there is nothing that says you can’t get it if it is there. But, as it is here in the United States, you may have money in your pocket and you can’t get the proper care because you don’t have the proper insurances and you don’t have any facilities that will provide it for you. And that is a tragedy, as far as I am concerned.”

Theresa BrownGold, Doylestown, Pa.

BrownGold: “I started looking at how we access health care three years ago when I launched an art project called Art as Social Inquiry. I was getting back into art at the time and my husband and I wanted to sell our business, so we did. And I said, ‘I’m going to look at this. I’m going to interview pro, con, uninsured, under-insured — all trying to find out how we access health care in this country.’ It’s pretty devastating what I found out. I just didn’t understand the connection between denied claims and shareholder profits. I have been in business and owned businesses, so I don’t vilify business.

“But the people I painted affected me. I painted a woman who was telling me this story where she had a stroke at 27 and they would pay to have an MRI taken but not to have it read. I painted bankruptcies. I painted a guy who was insured — he was insured for goodness sake — and he had twins and his insurance didn’t cover all the bills. So he went bankrupt. I think it’s fair to say that if we’re going to have a conversation, we need to start with the question, ‘All Americans cannot access health care because …’

“One of the things I hear a lot when I talk to people out here is, ‘We want reform, but we just don’t like the way it’s been done.’ Well, my answer to that is it had to get done however it could get done. We just couldn’t wait any longer. We just couldn’t wait. I think this law is a good first step.”

Dr. Alice Chen, Los Angeles, Calif.

Chen: “Health reform is already helping millions of people, children, women, seniors, everybody. And not enough people know about it because it’s complicated and there’s a lot of pieces that have not been implemented yet. People are afraid they’re going to lose their medical freedom, but it’s not true. I definitely do believe that the more people see their families and people in their communities being helped by it, they will realize this is not what they thought it was. Health reform is actually going to improve people’s freedoms. It means that people can be more secure in the health coverage that they have. It means that people who don’t have coverage can get coverage, so that people can have their doctor, they can see a doctor when they’re sick or injured and they can get the care that they need.”

Tom Connelly, Niles, Ohio

Connelly: “I’ve been advocating for health care reform for several years now as a nurse, and finally it’s about to happen. I think something like 65 million people are going to come into Medicaid throughout the nation. I always think back to this auto mechanic that came into the hospital a couple years ago. He was self-employed — had no health care insurance. A car fell on his leg and broke it. He actually deferred his surgery because he didn’t think he could afford it. He went home and the bone didn’t heal correctly, so he actually ended up coming in and being in worse shape than he was before. I don’t think a lot of people realize that it’s working people that have really been hit the hardest by this crisis. By 2014, this man will have health insurance.”

Kelsey Van Nice, Washington, D.C.

Van Nice: “The Affordable Care Act has already helped a lot of women and families in this country and I’d like to see it stay the way that it is. I work for an organization that advocates for reproductive health care services and with the new preventative health care packages — meaning birth control is available with no copay — it helps a lot of low-income women, women of color, and those in under-served populations access these preventative medicines that they need. It’s also a good thing for women in college who don’t have a lot of money. With this new (birth control) rule in place, it allows them to take control of their lives and live the lives that they want.”

All photos by Victoria Fleischer.

Our Health Page is full of related content, including a look at what two attorneys general — Massachusetts’ Martha Coakley and Virginia’s Ken Cuccinelli — would say if they were making arguments before the high court about the individual mandate. We also have much more about the law itself, including a timeline, a report card, a cheat sheet, and a public polling update. If you still have questions about the law or the Supreme Court case, ask them here and on Twitter using hashtag #HCRchat. We’ll answer them in an online chat on Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET.

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