It is often said that the thing for which we should be most grateful is good health. Indeed, health - or lack thereof -- affects every aspect of our lives. Yet there are great changes coming to America's health care system, changes that will undoubtedly harm millions of Americans. With the repeal or extreme revision of the Affordable Care Act, those who are older, in poorer health, or with limited income will undoubtedly have difficulty either accessing or paying for medical care. Here are some things you can do now, before Trump's inauguration, to protect your access to health care as much as possible.
1. Go to the doctor now. If you have insurance, be sure to go to your doctor now and again, if necessary, at the beginning of the year. Get all your labs done and have any chronic conditions looked at. It is unclear who is going to lose their insurance, so be up to date on everything, from shots to prescriptions.
2. Ask your doctor about paying cash. Many physicians, especially those who are not in a large clinic or hospital group, will take cash. Ask your doctor about this option. If you lose your insurance, you may be able to keep the same doctor.
3. Focus on your health. If there was ever a time to get healthier, this is it. Can you eat cleaner? Are you willing to go for a little walk after dinner? Anything you can do to improve your health will be meaningful both short and long term.
4. If you live in a state with a state managed health exchange, call your governor. In states with state run health care exchanges, depending on what the changes are at the federal level, it may be possible for states to continue to run their own health insurance programs. Immediately lobby your governor and state representatives to maintain state health care exchanges and continue to provide affordable health care coverage to individuals and families in your state.
5. Call your national representatives. President-elect Trump has indicated that there are some aspects of the Affordable Care Act that may be retained. These include prohibiting "pre-existing conditions" as a way to keep people from health care and allowing young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until the age of 26. There are some other key aspects of the Affordable Care Act that are also important to retain. These include same price for insurance no matter a person's gender and not re-introducing a cap on total amount of coverage a person can have in their lifetime.
6. Urge cost cutting measures that limit price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies. There is no reason, other than profiteering, for an Epipen to cost five or six hundred dollars. While there is little hope that the GOP will do anything to limit price-gouging by the pharmaceutical companies, limiting the price that can be charged or negotiating rates through state medical exchanges is one of the best ways to limit the cost of health care.
7. Advocate for the continuation of Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. This act from 2008 ensures that mental health and addiction treatment are covered by insurance in the same way that physical health problems are covered. In this time of health care coverage uncertainty, we need to be advocates for those who need mental health or addiction care.
8. Get treatment now. Especially if you or someone you love is in need of addiction or mental health treatment, go now. Do not wait until the holidays are over. The best gift you can give yourself and your family is to get help. We don't know how long quality addiction treatment will remain accessible to the poor or middle class. Access it now. What your family wants for the new year is you addiction free.