On January 31 about 350 people gathered in front of the Federal courthouse steps in downtown Medford to rally and march with the local protest group District 2 Indivisible. Many of those protesters wanted to see the Affordable Care Act continue to provide health care access for people in Jackson County. One protester’s sign read, “It’s called Obamacare because Obama cares, not Trumpcare, because Trump doesn’t.”
In the crowd was doctor Roma Sprung, who is concerned about the future of the ACA, because she has seen first hand what lack of access to heath care can mean for people.
Dr. Sprung still misses a dear college friend, Steve, who died prematurely for lack of health insurance in the years prior to the ACA. When Steve was in his fifties, he was downsized from his well paying middle class job, and lost his health care insurance along with his job. Because Steve had a pre-existing condition, the premiums for buying insurance on the open market would have cost $5,000 each month, well beyond his family budget.
With no other options, Steve decided to hope for the best and wait 7 years before he could qualify for Medicare at age 65. During that period Steve developed prostate cancer, an illness that would likely had been detected with a common PSA screening test followed with effective medical treatments.
Steve died after 3 years of painful suffering, leaving behind his wife and children.
Dr. Sprung is convinced that her friend might have survived his illness had he been born in another country. “If he had been French or Italian he would have been taken care of,” says Sprung, noting that most every other advanced industrial nation in the world provides basic heath care services for their citizens.
Other stories similar to Steve’s have played out many times across America in the years prior to the passage of the ACA. The not for profit group Public Citizen estimates that 45,000 Americans die every year from lack of access to health care.
Now that President Trump and both houses of congress have promised to repeal the health care law, Dr. Sprung is worried that many other Americans will loose access to health care, and more people like Steve will suffer needlessly or die prematurely.
More than 20 million more people in the United States now have health coverage,
And the ACA has dramatically reduced the numbers of uninsured in Jackson County. According to an Oregon Health Authority report the number of uninsured in Jackson County dropped from 16 % in 2012 to 4.3 % in 2014 just after the ACA was implemented.
At the rally, a letter addressed to Republican U.S. Representative Greg Walden expressing concern over the fate of the ACA health care law was read to the crowd. Afterwards, the letter was passed around so that the protesters could add their signatures to the letter, and then the crowd marched to Walden’s downtown Medford office to deliver the letter.
Rep. Walden is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that has oversight of proposals to replace the ACA. Walden says he has a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but has not yet made his replacement plan public.
Dr. Sprung believes that repealing the health care law without implementing a comprehensive replacement would be bad for both our health and the economy. “Health care and hospitals are economic hubs of middle class jobs,” says Sprung. Removing heath care insurance coverage now would dramatically reduce the numbers of well paying health care jobs throughout Oregon.
Everyone, including young and healthy people will need access to health care services at some point in their life. “To call heath insurance, insurance, is a misnomer,” says Sprung. “You can buy insurance for your car or home, but not every car gets into an accident and not every home burns down to the ground. But it is certain that 100% of us will get old or injured and need access to health care services.
We will all need health care eventually.”
Dr. Sprung feels strongly that we must provide health care to our citizens.
Says Dr. Sprung “We have a moral and ethical obligation to take care of each other.”
By Donna Breedlove for the Ashland Chronicle