Prescription for Peace
by Tom Beutel
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9 (NRSV)
You wake up with chills, body aches, and a spasm of coughing. Obviously, you are not well. What would you do? The answer depends on who you are, specifically on whether you are one of 47 million people in 2012 who did not have health insurance. According to a Kaiser Foundation report, almost one third (30%) of these would postpone seeking medical help because of the cost .
The Kaiser report goes on to say that “uninsured patients have increased risk [of] being diagnosed in later stages of diseases, including cancer, and die earlier than those with insurance.” This is the reality of the lack of health insurance coverage in the United States in 2013. The following facts highlight the seriousness of this stark reality:
- The gap in access to healthcare between those with health insurance and those without has widened between 2000 and 2010.
- While the number of those who are uninsured has decreased slightly since 2009, the number is still significantly higher than in 2007 (47.9 million in 2011 vs 43.4 million in 2007) and the differences in the past seveal years are not statistically significant.
- It is the poor and minorities who comprise the bulk of those who are uninsured. “Nine out of ten uninsured people are in low- or moderate income families.”
- Persons with pre-existing conditions are typically denied health insurance.
In October all of this will change. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed by congress in 2010, signed by President Obama, and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012 will go into effect beginning January 1, 2014, with insurance exchanges opening on October 1, 2013. Under the ACA:
- Medicaid expansion and subsidies for insurance purchased through state insurance exchanges will reduce the cost of health insurance, ideally to a level that is affordable by those needing it. People below 138% of the federal poverty level will receive insurance through Medicaid if their state has opted in to the expanded Medicaid program (see state-by-state information here. Uninsured with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty will be eligible to obtain insurance from the state insurance exchanges, typically with a tax subsidy.
- Insurers will not be allowed to discontinue a person because of their medical condition, deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, or impose annual or lifetime limits on coverage.
It is estimated that the ACA will result in 30 million people obtaining health insurance who would have been uninsured otherwise. While this does not completely extend coverage to all of the nation’s uninsured, it certainly makes a significant improvement.
While no-one knows for sure all of the ramifications of the ACA and how its implementation will ultimately affect the uninsured, it is pretty clear that the situation today is not good and that the provisions of ACA will go a long way toward improving healthcare for millions of people, improving quality of daily life and even saving or extending lives.
As we move forward into the implementation of the ACA it is important to do so knowledgeably and honestly. There are numerous voices raised to oppose the law and its benefits. These voices make claims that often are not true. We, as peacemakers, need to speak up, to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. To do so, we need to know the facts about the uninsured, about the ACA and about false claims.
Here are several links to some excellent resources:
- First, take a short quiz to test your knowledge about those who are uninsured.
- Then, check out the Fact Sheet on the Kaiser Foundation website.
- For more in-depth information about those who are uninsured see The Uninsured: A Primer.
- FAQs for the ACA can be found here
Two areas are important in helping those who need insurance. First, knowing how much it will cost. For those who will be purchasing insurance through a state exchange, actual information will be available on October 1. Until then the Kaiser Foundation has an online calculator for estimating your cost. Got to http://kff.org/ and select “Health Insurance subsidy Calculator.”
Secondly, people want and need to know how to get the exact information for their situation. This can be found at https://www.healthcare.gov/ .
In addition to having the above information at your fingertips to pass on to any who need it, there are several things that we, as Christian peacemakers, can do.
- Pray for wisdom for leaders and sensitivity to the needs of the uninsured for our country as a whole.
- Initiate discussions in churches, Sunday School classes, and small groups to promote understanding of the uninsured and the ACA.
- Write or call representatives to express concern for the uninsured and support for the ACA (See Find Your Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ )
- Sign a petition supporting the ACA, for example the one at moveon.org http://petitions.moveon.org/keystoneprogress/sign/i-support-obamacare or the DCCC (http://www.dccc.org/page/s/obamacare2013 )
Whatever you do, “Speak out for those who cannot speak.” Be ready to share information about the uninsured, about the ACA and the many myths surrounding this law. In this way you will help create peace by promoting the physical well-being of those who are currently unable to properly seek health care because of cost or pre-existing conditions. Helping those who are not insured to obtain health insurance is truly a prescription for peace.