Thirty-two years ago, my husband and I were shaken out of complacency when our second child was born with a rare, severe condition that affects every joint in his body. We were told he would probably never walk. He did walk, although even as a toddler, his joints hurt. However, during his childhood, the one major surgery he needed (and it was a doozy) was covered with our insurance – and that kept him walking.
In early 2008, with Matt graduating from college with a finance degree, we thought his future was secure. He’d get a job and be set. Then the bottom fell out of our economy and a visibly disabled young man, even a well-spoken, intelligent one, never found a job in his field. (Discrimination against the disabled is real.) Several years passed, with Matt substitute teaching (and loving it) and trying to keep his spirits up. Eventually, he picked up a second degree, which meant for a while he was covered under the university health policy. But by the time Obama was fighting for the ACA, Matt was done with his second degree, having severe trouble walking, and had collected a pile of insurance company rejections for his pre-existing condition. He (and we) were feeling quite hopeless. A talented young man who loved his many friends, fishing, nature, his nieces & nephews, and football was trapped until the ACA passed and Matt was able to get both hips replaced at age 29. Thank you, Mayo Clinic and thank you, Obamacare!
Today, Matt is delighted to be teaching 7th grade history near Tucson. He’s dedicated to his job and loves his students, even the difficult ones. He’s a damn good teacher. He’s coaching the 7th/8th grade flag football team…. and winning big. That’s a lot of fun for a guy who couldn’t play school sports. The warmth there is healthier for him than our cold winters. And as long as he is employed, he has healthcare.
But the day will come in a year, or two, maybe three, when once again his joints will demand attention. (The knees will be next – his doctors always told him his joints have a very limited mileage warranty.) And if he can’t work for some time, will he still have that insurance? Will the Republicans strand my son back into that limbo, where without health insurance, he won’t be able to work and without work, he’ll have no health insurance?
How many other young people are there – people with talent – with the ability to serve their communities, but who need healthcare in order to be able to live their life fully? What a shame for us to waste our most precious resource – our people. Healthcare is a basic human right not only because it’s the decent thing for our country to do, but also because a healthy population makes life better for all Americans.