Last September I wrote about how President Obama's health-care reforms directly impacted our family. Our 7-year-old son has hydrocephalus, a lifelong, life-threatening medical condition. Since this is a pre-existing condition, prior to the reform's changes, he would likely have had a difficult time getting an individual health-care plan or been forced to pay higher premiums.
My son is not alone. According to a new study by the Department of Health and Human Services, up to 50%, or 129 million, non-elderly Americans have some type of pre-existing health condition, and up to one in five non-elderly Americans with a pre-existing condition (25 million individuals) is uninsured.
I also have asthma and my son and I are covered by my husband's insurance at work. If circumstances changed and my husband lost his job, became self-employed, took a job with a company that does not offer family coverage, or even became disabled or died, our ability to obtain affordable health insurance would be limited.
Our son's condition qualifies him for Medi-Cal and Medicaid, so he would have that to fall back on, but we don't expect the government to pay for his care. We just want coverage that we can afford.
As I write this, Republicans in the House of Representatives are voting to repeal the health-care overhaul bill. They claim that Americans agree with them, yet an AP/GfK poll conducted earlier this month asked 1,001 people what they want Congress to do with the new law. The results showed that only 26% want it repealed; 10% want it scaled back; 19% want to leave it as is; and nearly half (43% ) want to expand it.
It's ironic that the people voting to reverse these protections have some of the best health-care coverage in the world. They're fortunate that they don't ever have to worry about being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
Now some of you are probably dismissing me as just another liberal Democrat and will likely be surprised by what I have to say next.
With our son's health problems, we regularly visit the emergency room at Children's Hospital Los Angeles. Because our son's condition can cause him to go into a coma and die in as little as an hour, we are always seen quickly, but we see first-hand how long the wait can be for those with less severe illnesses. On one of our visits during the height of flu season, people were waiting eight hours or longer just to see a doctor.
Why is the ER so overcrowded? One clear cause is illegal immigration. In an article in the L.A. Times last June about the overcrowding at Los Angeles County-USC Hospital's emergency room, Tony Bell, Supervisor Mike Antonovich's representative, put the blame on "a large illegal immigrant population" that uses the emergency room as a primary care facility.
Maybe the Republicans could work on finding a solution to that problem instead of focusing their efforts on destroying the protections that so many Americans desperately need.
SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.