As the nation debates changes to the health care system, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) today joined Michigan families, health care providers and labor leaders at Western Wayne Family Health Centers to discuss how the Affordable Care Act impacts Michigan.
Since the ACA was enacted in 2010, the uninsured rate in Michigan has fallen by more than 50 percent, with 695,000 residents gaining coverage. House Republican Leadership has indicated that Congress may make major changes to the healthcare system this year, including repealing or weakening the law, which could reverse gains in access to coverage and care.
“The Affordable Care Act is not perfect but it has provided a significant benefit to working families across Michigan,” said Dingell. “Since the ACA was implemented, 695,000 hardworking people in Michigan have gained health coverage and thousands more have benefited from the law, no matter where they get their coverage. Thanks to the ACA, preventative services like flu shots, cancer screenings and mammograms are now covered free of charge. People are no longer denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, there are no more caps on lifetime benefits, and young people can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. Hearing stories from today’s participants has reinforced for me that we cannot afford to go backwards. I will fight tooth and nail to protect the health care coverage that 695,000 people in Michigan and 20 million Americans rely upon.”
“Since the ACA, we have been able to see new patients who, without insurance coverage, were afraid to come to see a doctor because they knew that if there was something wrong, they couldn’t afford to do anything about it,” said Linda Atkins, CEO of Western Wayne Family Health Centers. “Many of our patients who had been using the sliding fee scale got coverage and were suddenly able to access preventive screenings, procedures and get medications they knew they needed but didn’t have a way to pay for it. The costs of cutting off this literal lifeline away are huge to society at large, and tragic to these people who are gaining better health and wellbeing.”
“Getting insurance has improved my quality of life,” said Bishop Walter L. Starghill, who gained coverage through Medicaid expansion in Michigan under the ACA. “I can now go to a clinic in my neighborhood to get services, staffed by friendly people who look like me. The impact on black men with increased access to insurance coverage is big—we didn’t take care of ourselves till it was too late and then had to go to the ER. It is psychologically beneficial to have that insurance card in your pocket. Now we can get checked out early and take care of ourselves before it is too late.”
“Everyone needs to remember the ACA is an economic driver, first and foremost because healthy people can work, and unhealthy people cannot,” said Mary Zatina, Vice President for Government Relations and Community Affairs at Beaumont Health. “Our hospitals are some of the biggest employers in their communities and states. Healthcare is the source of technology, engineering, and advanced training. It is the knowledge that makes our country the world leader it is. On top of all that, hospitals provide the compassion and tender care that we all say makes America great.”
“I come from a family where many of its members have struggled with cancer,” said Dora Rodriguez-Sharkey, Member of UAW Local 3000. “My father, husband, and younger sister were recently diagnosed, and they would not have been able to get health care coverage after leaving their jobs – or would have gone bankrupt paying for it – without the ACA. The fact that people can no longer be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition is the most valuable part of the ACA to me”
“Labor has viewed access to healthcare as a right not a privilege for more than a century,” said Metro-Detroit AFL-CIO President Rick Blocker. “If Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act they are telling working people they do not make enough money to have that right. They are telling working people that only the elite deserve access to health care.”
Dr. Manzar Rajput, a geriatric psychiatrist and a member of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA), also participated in the roundtable discussion about the ACA’s impact in Michigan.