National Nurses Week gives me a chance to reflect on the positive changes that the Affordable Care Act created for patients and for my hospital. I speak from experience, as a sister, friend, daughter and nurse when I talk about the lives that will be saved because of the focus the law provides on preventive care.
After my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, the nurses in her facility played a critical role in her care and recovery. That was when I decided I was going to become a nurse.
Today I work for San Francisco General Hospital and as a nurse for the last three years, I've seen patients that were not nearly as lucky as my mother. Just as I was starting out in the field one of my sister's college friends, like many young people today, graduated and did not immediately get a job that provided health benefits. She was feeling under the weather, but delayed seeking care because she had no health insurance. When she finally went in to see someone it was discovered that she had stage four breast cancer.
My friend was 23 years old and she died within three months of her diagnosis. Patients like her are the ones that break my heart, because with preventive care this young woman and all the young women like her could have lived long, happy, healthy lives.
The Affordable Care Act focuses on preventive care, eliminating co-pays for essential healthcare such as well-child visits, cancer screenings and contraception. More patients will be covered in 2014, and we will see fewer people using the emergency department at San Francisco General as their sole source of primary care. When patients have the opportunity to see a practitioner when they are ill, without fear of cost, many of the costly healthcare crises that I see now will be avoided.
We fought hard to pass the Affordable Care Act and we will fight hard to defend it. Our patients' lives are depending on it.