As a primary care pediatrician who sees children of low-income families in Washington, D.C., I am reminded every day of the vulnerability of our children’s health to the ill-informed whims of our lawmakers and courts.
Those children will be on my mind as I gather with others outside the Supreme Court today.
Just yesterday, I saw my 16-year-old patient Mary, who suffers from Down’s syndrome and congenital heart disease, both conditions with lifelong disabilities. I have known Mary for the last 13 years.
Her family has been through some very rough times. I still distinctly remember listening to Mary’s mother tell me that her family was homeless, just a few years ago. Mary’s mother was in tears. They had no place to live, two children to feed, and both parents were unemployed.
The ACA is fundamentally flawed because, by design, it perpetuates the central role of the private insurance industry and other corporate and for-profit interests.
To the best of my ability, I reassured Mary’s mother that despite hard times for her and her family, she would still have me as her child’s pediatrician, and Medicaid for her child’s health insurance.
At that moment I reminded myself that it takes a societal commitment to public institutions like Medicaid and community health centers to provide care to millions of Americans like Mary who would otherwise go without.
Yet when Mary turns 21, she might not qualify for Medicaid. Depending on what state Mary and her family live in, she may or may not have access to the doctors she will need for the rest of her life.
Children and their families need stability in their lives, and yet health insurance in our country remains prone to great instability and harsh surprises. Mary’s case is by no means unique.
How is it possible that in 2015 one of the richest countries in the world still does not guarantee every resident the right to health care? This question would not be necessary if we had a health care system worthy of the name – single-payer national health insurance, or an improved and expanded Medicare for All.