Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Why Disabled People Can't Afford Having the ACA Repealed

As many people know, Republican congresspeople are attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The House passed the American Health Care Act, and the Senate is proposing the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Some of the changes that will occur under the American Health Care Act include reduced funding to Medicaid, decreased assistance to low-income people, removal of the insurance mandate, and decreased coverage for reproductive health care. AHCA in particular will allow insurers to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. These changes will lead to disabled people being denied healthcare, especially those who are poor or female.

If the AHCA passes, disabled people will be one demographic group affected, since it will allow insurers to deny insurance based on someone having a preexisting condition. Regardless of whether you agree with the medicalization of disability or not, disabilities are often classified as medical conditions by our current system, and many of them are long-term. Thus, allowing insurers to deny people based on preexisting conditions necessarily allows institutional ableism. The consequences of this can go beyond disability-related healthcare. Combined with not requiring coverage of reproductive care and the defunding of Planned Parenthood, female disabled people would lose their reproductive rights. Even worse, some disabled people cannot have a safe pregnancy due to their disability. For example, Kassiane Sibley cannot have children due to her multiple disabilities, which she describes here. If the bill passes, disabled people will be denied healthcare that abled people get to enjoy.

This decreased access to health care would threaten the lives of disabled people, since many of them need more health care due to being disabled. For example, people with epilepsy need medication to decrease the risk of having a seizure. If they are denied medication, their seizures can get themselves injured or killed, especially if they go into status epilepticus. This legislation will not simply cause difficulty for disabled people. It will actually kill people.

That said, not every disability needs medical treatment. However, even for people with those disabilities, this legislation would disable them even more. Many disability services are served through the healthcare system, particularly those that help disabled people acquire skills. For example, I do not use any medication for my autism, cerebral palsy, anxiety, or depression (and whatever those periods of overexcitement are). Nevertheless, I rely on speech therapy to improve my communication and psychotherapy to improve my coping skills. Without these therapies, I would have a harder time dealing with the demands of college, and I may not get to a point where I can keep a job, even with accommodations (that isn't to say accommodations aren't helpful, though they don't always sufficiently reduce disability). These therapies are covered by health insurance, so repealing the ACA would prevent many disabled people similar to me from fully participating in life.

Finally, if either bill passes, health care will become more costly. The financial aid people will receive will be decreased, and people will have to pay more out of pocket. This is because the American Health Care Act would not give aid based on income, and both acts would allow states to cover less medical conditions. Thus, people who are poor and disabled would be in deep trouble. This would hurt many disabled people, since they are more likely to be in poverty than the general population. In order to protect disabled people's rights, that substantial subset of the population needs to be considered.

In order to protect disabled lives, it is imperative these bills fail to pass. We must contact the Senate to prevent the ACA from being repealed. We must speak out about the consequences of these dangerous bills. The American healthcare system must not be set back, and with our voices, we can make sure most Americans get the healthcare they deserve.