Catchy title, right? Growing up in the 1980s, I lived in the heart of the Rockies without locked doors, kids out until dark, Joe Plumber got by on a high school education, and everyone was Republican. Dad worked at a steel mill with wages we could live on and employer health insurance. During the 1980s US steel crisis, he was laid off and my parents lost their house. My grandmother had a home for us to move into, but it was no picnic. At over 100 years old, the house was literally falling apart. There were 4 square rooms: kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms (for eight people!). The windows broke if you touched them wrong, the floor rotted in places, and the only heat came from a wood-burning stove.
Dad worked at odd jobs to provide (my favorite: a cook for Daylight Donuts), but finally was hired as an apprentice and became a self-employed carpenter within a few years. He built beautiful stairways for homes, businesses, hotels--he loved creating with his hands.
We weren't well-off but comfortable and had private insurance. Life seemed good--at least to a 12-year-old. Then, Dad's National Guard unit was deployed to Desert Storm in the Middle East. We missed him, but never so much when Mom was put in the hospital and Grandma came to stay. Dad came home for a few weeks. There was a lot of hushed whispering, which left me and my siblings confused and scared.
Eventually Mom came home and Dad finished his tour of duty. Finally, they told us what was wrong: idiopathic interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. It would likely kill her in under five years. We were devastated. Dad quickly realized that he needed to return to the mill in order to obtain employer-provided insurance. You see, the private insurance dropped us as soon as a diagnosis was made.
By this time, the economy had changed and the wages of the steel mill were no longer able to support our family as before. The income was significantly less than his skilled self-employment, he had to work longer hours, and stress affected everyone and led to high blood pressure for my relatively young father.
Much of this story is just bad luck, but had the Affordable Care Act (ACA) existed, our family's situation could have been different. Our family of eight may have qualified for Medicaid or significantly subsidized healthcare. Dad could have remained in carpentry, had better health, and Mom would have been saved from guilt over his return to the mill.
Did my family have it as bad as some? Absolutely not. Does that mean I don't feel the effects of my experience? Of course I do, and we were probably some of the 'fortunate ones'.
As a child, I used to think I bled red like a true republican. As I've matured, I realize that my veins actually have more blue than red coursing through them. I don't think big businesses should get breaks, I don't believe the rich shouldn't be taxed more, I don't believe that welfare is too freely given, and I don't believe the ACA is socialist healthcare.
It's time we all take a step back and truly understand the ACA. Average Americans on both sides need to educate themselves by actually reading a simple breakdown of the ACA (just watch these clips from Jimmy Kimmel Live). It's time for politicians to stop using it as platform ammunition. Jumping onboard is vital--especially for states who have not expanded Medicaid. Just look at California (see this article). They knocked their uninsured in half (from 22% to 11%) in the first open enrollment period. Imagine the possibilities.
Simply put, the ACA is making healthcare available to more people in the US than ever before. It's improving quality of life. It's making it possible for individuals to receive preventative care at free/little cost before they show up as train-wrecks in ERs.
The ability to live healthy is a right--regardless of class, education, race, or even citizenship. As a nation we are quick to be the 'Big Brother' when it comes to international issues, but slow to be the 'Big Brother' of the suffering within our own borders. Some will argue that people bring health problems on themselves. I counter that health is largely due to the surroundings to which people are exposed. It is not possible to separate health from environment and circumstance--much of which may not be of one's choosing. We were not all created equal because we were not all born to privilege or to power or to economic status or higher education. However, we were all born to mortality and humanity, and that alone entitles everyone a chance to be given a chance. Europe and many other countries have long had this vision and scoff at us for our lack of it--it is time we change our mindset.
Yes, I am most definitely reformed.