By Catherine Beane, Vice President, Advocacy and Public Policy, YWCA USA
When the youngest of my four sons was born, everything seemed just fine. He was healthy and vivacious. Cute-as-a-bug’s-ear with all his fingers and toes. And his smile and happy baby sounds were a delight to his older brothers. While the first few years of my older sons’ lives included frequent medical appointments for the typical colds, ear infections and fevers that babies seem to catch, Malcolm was healthy as a horse with only one antibiotic in his first two years of life.
Who knew then how important the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would become for my family?
When the ACA was making its way through Congress, I’d watched the health care debate and even attended a few rallies in support of it. But when Malcolm was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in October 2010, the ACA became personal. To stay healthy, Malcolm needs insulin with every meal, supplies and devices to regulate his blood sugar, and frequent appointments with medical specialists. All of this is expensive, and access to health insurance is critical to Malcolm’s long-term health.
We are like millions of families across the country, struggling to keep those we love healthy in the face of unexpected, expensive, life-long health challenges. Because of the ACA, Malcolm cannot be denied health insurance coverage, even when we change jobs or health plans, or down the line when he’s old enough to get health insurance on his own. The ACA has put an end to old business practices that allowed insurance companies to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or to set annual and life-time caps on coverage – practices that would be devastating for Malcolm and so many others.
I’ve learned through my work with YWCA that the ACA has also been a healthcare lifeline for millions of women who could not otherwise afford health insurance. The ACA has been particularly beneficial for women of color, whose uninsured rates have dropped dramatically over the last eight years. And the ACA’s requirements that health plans provide coverage for the full array of essential health benefits mean that girls and women have access to the care they need throughout their lives – pediatric care when they are young, pregnancy and childbirth coverage during their child-bearing years, preventive care like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and domestic violence screenings when they need them, and so much more.
Malcolm is thriving and has an amazing life ahead of him. And thanks to the ACA, he has access to the health care that he needs for his life to be long and healthy. But the fight is not over. In this last year, repeated votes in Congress threatened to repeal this critical law, and efforts continue to dismantle the critical protections that the ACA provides.
On this 8th anniversary of the ACA, it’s important to pause for a moment to thank everyone who has been a part of the fight to preserve this vital law. You’re making a difference for Malcolm, for our family, and for millions of others who have their own stories to tell about how the ACA is making a difference in their lives. And we need you to stay in this fight with us.