Written by Maria Bryan
The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center knows firsthand that this country has come a long way in in expanding health insurance coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. About 20 million Americans have gained health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) since it became law in 2010. Congress is now vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which puts this advancement in danger if an appropriate replacement is not in place.
Lanying Lee was one of the first people we assisted to enroll for health insurance through the New York State of Health exchange in 2013. The exchange was set up by New York State to meet the requirements of Obamacare and help consumers shop for health insurance and apply for government subsidies.
Lanying is a petite Chinese woman who lives in Flushing, Queens with her small family. She had been a manicurist in New York City for ten years. Her husband owns a small shop that sharpens tools used in nail salons and does odd part-time work for added income. While their modest income made them ineligible for government funded health insurance, they did not earn enough to pay the high cost of private health insurance. “I read about Obamacare,” says Lee. “We were hearing a lot about it. I thought, ‘I need this.’”
According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, two in ten Asian American residents of New York City were uninsured prior to the implementation of the New York State of Health initiative under the Affordable Care Act. For Lanying Lee, Obamacare could not have arrived soon enough. “We did not have health insurance for three years. We are getting older, and we want to take care of our health. We have specialist doctors to go to and general check-ups that we should have regularly. We were not going to the doctors because we could not pay. Having insurance has made such a difference for us. We are going to the doctors on schedule, and we are staying healthy. Obamacare is what we needed. It has been a bumpy ride to enroll, but it was worth it. We are very happy.”
Since the NY State of Health exchange was implemented, the percentage of uninsured New Yorkers was reduced by half. Having health insurance means that patients are able to maintain regular check-ups and preventative care, where they otherwise might forgo care or resort to going to an emergency room. Many plans under the Obamacare provide free preventative care and well-woman visits, and reduced costs on prescription drugs.
On January 4th, 2017, NY Governor Cuomo stated his concern for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in place. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act may result in over 2.7 million New Yorkers losing their health coverage. “Since its implementation, the Affordable Care Act has become a powerful tool to lower the cost of health insurance for local governments and New Yorkers, and it is essential that the federal government does not jeopardize the health and livelihoods of millions of working families,” Governor Cuomo said.
We believe that patients like Lanying Lee may suffer great harm if they lose their health insurance. We implore our members of congress to not repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement in place.
*Name of client has been changed
Read our thoughts on the Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and Impact on Community Health Centers