Judy Bright -- a certified nurse midwife, advanced nurse practitioner, public health administrator and my mother -- died before she could take advantage of Obamacare, but as an advocate for public health and someone with a pre-existing condition, she knew the difference it would make for millions of Americans.
She died last year, at age 62, after a battle with peritoneal cancer, a rare cancer that impacts women. Ten years earlier she had successfully fought off breast cancer. By the time she reached 60, after working her entire adult life delivering babies and creating public health programs for low-income women, she thought about retirement with her husband, Dr. John Thomas, who had just retired from a career teaching philosophy and medical ethics to nursing students.
But because of her early bout with cancer there was no medical insurance available. She decided she'd have to wait until Obamacare took full effect in 2014 or until she was eligible for Medicare to retire, but at 61 the peritoneal cancer struck. Obamacare outlaws the practice of discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. No one can be treated the way my mother was now. I'm included in this group. Just before my mother entered hospice, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Like many nurse practitioners, my mother declined to work in the for-profit sector and instead devoted her life to public health. She believed strongly in the need for universal health care -- a cause she felt was a deeply moral issue. During the ugly debates over Obamacare she cheered on the president and would have been applauding this week when he said:
The United States of America does not sentence its people to suffering just because they don't make enough to buy insurance on the private market. Just because their work doesn't provide health insurance. Just because they fall sick or suffer an accident -- that could happen to anybody. And regular access to a doctor or medicine or preventive care -- that's not some earned privilege, it is a right.
Obamacare has some other important aspects that we ought to take note of:
Universal health care is what America's religious leaders, lead by the National Council of Churches, have fought for since before Harry Truman introduced the idea. Faith leaders stood side-by-side with President Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act and the implementation of this law will benefit us all.
I wish my mother could have lived to see the impact. She knew it was coming and it gave her hope for all the people she cared for. As it gives me hope as a pastor, for all those in our nation who go without health care or insurance.