Why ‘Obamacare’ is important for American children

Good news for kids.

“You cannot educate an unhealthy child, and you cannot keep an uneducated child healthy.” Jocelyn Elders M.D., former U.S. Surgeon General

I was one of millions of happy people following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act. The ACA greatly expands access to care, benefits, and coverage for millions of children, and if there’s any hope for the future of this country it has to start with healthy children.

It’s difficult for people with health insurance to truly understand what it’s like for those who don’t have it. Or for those who had it and then lost it in the recent economic downturn. And it’s easy to overlook the toll this can take on a child’s chances of success in life.

Here’s one example from my practice:

I took care of a family I’ll call the Swensons for several years. Greg and Connie have three kids, ages 6, 7,and 10. Greg is a welder and his wife Connie was a receptionist at the construction firm where Greg worked. Both lost their jobs about a year ago, and with it went their health insurance. They moved to a neighboring state to live with family and search for work in a more construction-friendly region.

Stephen, their ten year-old, is a very bright boy who suffers from asthma. When they had health insurance and jobs, Greg and Connie were able to keep Stephen healthy, but not without inhalers, allergy medications, and clinic visits.

When Greg and Connie lost their incomes and insurance, though, medications and regular doctor visits quickly ate up what money the Swensons had saved. Stephen got sicker. He wound up in  emergency rooms three times, and then was hospitalized for a few days when his asthma got out of control. He missed about three weeks of school due to his illness, and he was fatigued for a few weeks after that.  It took him the rest of the school year to catch up to his new classmates on the work he’d missed when he was sick.

None of that had to happen. In most other industrialized countries Greg and Connie could have simply taken Stephen to a pediatrician or family doctor in their new home town and stayed on top of his asthma care. Money would still have been tight, but they wouldn’t have had to go deep into debt to keep Stephen healthy and doing well in school.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a nice summary the ACA’s benefits for children  (see the fact sheets for more details). Take a look–it’ll give you some hope for the future. How anyone can equate that to the second coming of 9/11 is beyond my powers of comprehension.


Filed under Asthma, Politics

8 responses to “Why ‘Obamacare’ is important for American children

  1. Isn’t that what Cobra insurance is for and if unable to afford this then this child would qualify for Medicaid. Catholic run hospitals are a good resource for finding options for sick kids or any kids whose parents cannot afford health care. There are already programs in place for these kids. They were were just not accessed.


    • The family I wrote about is a classic case of falling through the cracks. I don’t know all the details of their financial situation, but they did go to three separate health care facilities (2 ERs and a hospital), and were hit with big bills from all three, and no one at any of the facilities made any effort to connect them to whatever programs they may have qualified for. Their son ended up sicker than he should have been, and they’re still trying to untangle the financial mess. Hopefully the ACA is the first step along the way to a more efficient, streamlined health care system in the U.S.


  2. Fantastic. I plan on reblogging.


  3. Latchon

    The family is responsible for their child’s health not the government. You can’t legislate charity.They should have asked what programs are available to them. I worked in a Catholic teaching hospital and if people were in need social services got involved and got them help. Something is not right with the story.


    • Catholic Charities does a great amount of good, but it could not exist without government support. According to its own website, 67% of its funding comes from the government.


      Likewise, Catholic hospitals would have a difficult time staying open without federal money in the form of Medicare and Medicaid. The proposed cuts to Medicare/Medicaid favored by Eric Cantor, the Republican House Majority Leader, would greatly hamper The Catholic Church’s ability to provide care to the poor.

      I grew up with a very positive view of both Catholic hospitals (my late aunt, Sister Mary Ellen Sloan, was once Mother Superior of the health-care oriented Sisters of Saint Mary in St. Louis) and of the federal government’s ability to help those who found themselves in tough times. The current silo mentality (ie, that religion=good, and government=bad, or vice-versa) is a counter-productive product of the politics of the last 2-3 decades. It wasn’t always so…


  4. Reblogged this on thepassionatemoderate and commented:
    I’ve just started my graduate studies to become a nurse-midwife, so while I wrap my head around my schoolwork and get organized I’m reblogging a different perspective on the “pros” of Obamacare. I’m hoping to too have a guest blog for the “con” side soon. If you like this post check out some of Dr Sloan’s other articles; he has a great and informative blog.


  5. E

    I think this is really tough — I agree that ALL children should have healthcare coverage and that it’s heartbreaking to think that there are kids out there who are not getting the care they need because they are uninsured.

    BUT — I have to respectfully disagree when it comes to the ACA. I think that expanding coverage NOW, without undertaking fundamental systemic reform, will only result in costs that continue to spiral out of control. And rising costs are bad for rich and poor alike — but especially bad for the very poor who are supposedly protected by the ACA.

    It’s incredibly hard to make decisions that might limit care for poor people now, especially because there are so many in need and so many that have tragic stories. For the sake of everyone, though, and especially the poor in the future, we need to make those difficult decisions. Expanding Medicare without reforming the system will benefit some in the short run, but be bad for everyone in the long run.

    – E

    PS. I don’t agree with everything in this article, but I think it offers an interesting perspective on some of the things that could go wrong with the expansion of Medicare: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/business/medicaids-new-tug-of-war-economic-view.html

    Thanks for listening!


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