What are Texans Saying About Health Care Reform?

At the Capitol this week, supporters of Texas Well and Healthy touted benefits of the Affordable Care Act, a law that has already improved the lives of more than 6 million Texans. Here we offer excerpts of what just a handful of Texans affected by the law shared with decision-makers. Texan Mike Siegel explained what the law means for his small business and others like his:

When I started my firm, I needed coverage, as my COBRA coverage was about to end. In 2003, I was able to cover my family for $3,800 per year. In 2010, that cost had increased to $14,400. Yes you heard correctly . . . a 278% increase. . . .

Small businesses . . . need a way to get affordable, reliable health coverage for ourselves, our families and our employees. For this reason, I strongly urge you to support the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that create an exchange that will allow small businesses, and all Texans, access to affordable coverage. Improving the small business climate within Texas can only improve the overall Texas economy.

University of Texas student Ayesha Akbar summed up having access to care thanks to the provision of the law that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance up to the age of 26:

My peers and I realize that we face a tough job outlook after graduating from college. Already, many of us know that we will graduate with some debt, and even more of us are holding down multiple jobs in order to save money and avoid being plunged into said debt. . . . The Affordable Care Act allows us a sense of relief and stability for our futures, insuring that we are covered. . . .

What we ask is that you allow us the peace of mind of knowing that we are covered. We ask that you make our health a top priority so that we are better able to contribute to our education and to our communities as a whole.

Pastor Kole Lovett offered a moving account about the potentially life-saving aspects of the law:

I’ve administered pastoral care for numerous families not having any insurance, and they all want to pray for a miracle. And I just always have this picture of God sitting there in Heaven and saying, “I’ve given it. . . to you. I’ve given you knowledge. I’ve given you technology. But you don’t let people get to it.” In all of my counseling with patients and people that are dealing with this issue, I myself did not get it until my brother had liver failure. …

I sit back and I look at all these numbers [financial data that were the focus of the hearing], and it’s just incredibly angering to me that a human life can be put with a number. It’s insane that this is what we’re reduced to. It happens because, well, we’re in a free market economy—and I love the free market economy, it’s a great system. But that round peg just does not fit this square hole. . . . It just doesn’t work. So you can call me a communist or you can call me crazy—and if I am crazy, it’s because of all the time I’ve spent in emergency rooms waiting for people I love and care about to get cared for—you can call me all those things, but one you think you can’t call me is out of touch.

Advocates came to share their stories, too. Rev. Whitney Bodman, an ordained minister and a board member for Texas Impact, offered another faith perspective:

The scriptures and teachings of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and other traditions tell us that a priority of the faith and the faithful is to attend to the needs of the poor and the sick. Over 700 verses of the Gospels describe the healing work of Jesus. This mandate applies not only to the people—to all of us—but also to the government that, according to the scriptures, “must execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Mindful of that responsibility, faith communities have worked for decades to move our nation toward a more inclusive, just, and practical system of health care, with particular focus on the poor and the vulnerable. Congress expanded Medicaid through the ACA in response to the needs of 50 million uninsured Americans, many of whom are too poor to afford health insurance. Of these, more than 12%--6.3 million—are our neighbors here in Texas. . . . Medicaid expansion is the right and moral thing to do in Texas. Failing to implement the expansion of Medicaid not only denies health care access to millions of low-income Texans, it also jeopardizes the health care infrastructure that serves all the people in our state.

Many Cover Texas Now and Texas Well and Healthy campaign members spoke at the hearing. Our organizer Mimi Garcia read the testimony of a Texan affected by the law who was unable to be at the hearing herself. Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities offered numerous ways in which the law is already helping Texans—from the 4,000 Texas adults with preexisting conditions able to receive care through a special new insurance pool for high-risk patients, to the $425 million in federal support for some of Texas’ largest employers that is making early retiree health coverage more affordable, to the Texas seniors who received discounts on prescriptions and free check-ups, thanks to the law. Laura Guerra-Cardus of the Children’s Defense Fund - Texas explained the value of the new law for Texas children, including those with preexisting conditions and in middle class families struggling to afford health care (special thanks to Texas Impact for the video):

Contributed by: Christine Sinatra, Texans Care for Children