Social legislation and reform is no cakewalk in this country. The mere mention of the word "reform" and the heated political rhetoric starts brewing. Might an issue like affordable health care, which is at the crux of national concern in this country, open doors to other reforms? Whether this issue pulls at one's sense of individual liberty, one's purse strings as its mandate to buy health insurance from a private company, or fulfills an intrinsic need for a potentially healthy America for all -- it is a partisan battle that is not yet over.
Last week marked the two-year anniversary since the House took its bold history-making vote on health care reform and President Obama signed the legislation. Whether you are for or against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, its passage into law seemingly bears the same weight as the notable landmark votes of Medicare in 1965 and Social Security in 1935.
But the political landscape in America has certainly changed since the 30s and 60s. The more broad-minded political parties of the past are now made up of a more ideologically narrow-minded body. Remember there was not one single Republican vote in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
This week is rather historic. The Supreme Court took up the issue of the constitutionality for the health care mandate of all citizens with a decision to come reportedly in June. Will the Affordable Care Act's "individual mandate" withstand constitutional scrutiny? Is it a high price to pay for some peace of mind when it comes to the health of our citizenry?
With the impact of the recession and government trying to balance budgets, it has been a difficult year for many. The focus is on us -- our children, our families, and millions of those individuals who cannot afford the astronomical health insurance costs and exorbitant medical bills. If you are still sitting on the fence of the health care reform debate, all it takes is a life threatening illness and subsequent health insurance cap to shake things up. If you or your child were ever denied coverage due to a "pre-existing condition" you know all too well the burden of what that entails. Inevitably, some of us are forced to feel the sting as we become our parents' caretaker.
Recently, my mother, an octogenarian, became critically ill and subsequently required months of specialized geriatric care and rehabilitation services. My life turned tenuous. Daily visits to the hospital and the nursing home caused unimaginable stress and havoc in our lives. My own health declined. My professional work suffered. I became drawn to seclusion and despair especially when family was not near. Close friends become your pillar of hope.
When my mother's Medicare-coverage capped out, we were forced to look into private pay and private home care services. Financial cushions quickly dissipate in urgent care situations. And when a loved one is no longer able to walk down a steep flight of stairs like before, or to drive or to walk to a nearby marketplace without assistance, health care reform takes on a whole different meaning. For now, although my mother is back at her home trying to manage her day-to-day activities with some home care assistance, the future is unknown. Her recovery may have been easier if more services were in place. Even those who are insured find it difficult when faced with the cost of assisted living conditions and costs. And I have seen elderly who were forced into nursing homes by these costs, and I have seen others who defy age and remain at home. Clearly, not all nursing home facilities provide high quality care and services to its residents. Luckily, ours did.
According to the federal government's Administration on Aging, the nation's elderly population of those 65 and older will double between 2000 and 2030. That adds up to one out of every five Americans -- 72.1 million people. My daughter may have to look after me one day. What will health care reform mean to us then?
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging announced grants of more than $1.3 billion to every state "to continue implementing programs that help older adults live healthy, safely and independently in their communities". Many are forced to live in assisted living and nursing facility environments. Nursing homes are feeling the crunch. Reports say New York State will cut out 2012 Medicare/Medicaid revenue by $1.2 million. This comes on top of the $5.4 million dollars that were cut by the State in 2011.
Before we are quick to judge, rant, and push the political rhetoric buttons, let us take the time to educate ourselves on all aspects of health care reform. Perhaps some of the provisions of this law are in our favor.
"Courage is knowing what not to fear." - Aristotle
And just perhaps, there is a beam of hope for the children and the elderly of families without lofty coffers for a much better chance of managing the rising costs of health care in this country. After all, this year is a presidential election-year. We should be expending our time and energy on debating the bigger issues. When scientists this week warned us that global warming is close to becoming irreversible, the issue of health care reform is just a drop in the bucket.