My community has seen a lot of devastation. When the steel mills closed, it depressed the local auto industry, and now good jobs are hard to find. For too long, people struggling to make ends meet avoided seeking care, and when they did, oftentimes it was too late.
As a nurse and psychiatric/mental health clinical nurse specialist, I hold the belief that all individuals have the inalienable right to care. So in 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act but left it up to states to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid eligibility, I joined my colleagues and other union members to take action. I went to the Statehouse to testify on behalf of so many patients who were too ill to share their own stories. Since Ohio expanded Medicaid in 2014, I’ve worked one-on-one with patients to educate them about affordable care options that are available through the law.
Today, more than 600,000 Ohioans are covered because of Medicaid expansion—they can now walk into the doors of a clinic or hospital and know they can get the care they need when they need it. It also means they’re taking steps to stay healthy so they can go to work and take care of their families.
Recent reports show there is mounting evidence to support what my patients have been saying in Ohio. A Harvard University study, highlighted in the Aug. 10 edition of The New York Times, offered an early glimpse of the progress that’s been made through the healthcare law to protect people from medical debt and help them become healthier. Researchers compared public health outcomes in two states that expanded Medicaid under the law, Kentucky and Arkansas, to Texas, one of 19 states that have not elected to expand Medicaid coverage.
The study found—similar to our own experience in Ohio—that the Kentucky and Arkansas residents were less likely to postpone care or avoid taking prescription drugs because of cost concerns. Individuals reported they have fewer medical bills they cannot pay.
These reported findings come one month after President Barack Obama wrote a scholarly article for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) highlighting how 20 million Americans have gained healthcare coverage—dropping the number of uninsured Americans to a historic low.
With all the progress that’s been made under the Affordable Care Act, it’s hard to believe that extremists still want to discredit or even repeal it. We can’t turn back now. I was on stage with Hillary Clinton at the SEIU Convention in Detroit when she pledged support to build on the law and make it even better. I know she has always been a fighter for quality affordable care. That’s why I’m with her to make sure the ACA is here to stay for generations to come.