My Turn: 15 million reasons not to kill Obamacare

Arizona Republic

Republican candidates for president have vowed to repeal Obamacare, but none have presented an alternative plan to improve the health care of our citizens.

 

The primary goal of the Affordable Care Act is to decrease the number of Americans who lack health insurance. That goal has been met! Fifteen million more of our citizens in 2015 have health insurance than in 2013.

 

Now, less than 10 percent of Americans are uninsured -- the lowest rate in our history. Yet, we remain the only industrial nation that doesn’t ensure that all its citizens have health care.

 

All our congressmen have health insurance. Do they know what it means to lack health insurance? Apparently not.

 

To be without health insurance in America means not having ongoing access to health care, particularly preventive care.

 

The uninsured are much less likely to have cancer-screening tests such as Pap smears, mammograms or colon-cancer screens. They are more likely to postpone needed health care, skip recommended tests or treatments or not fill prescriptions.

 

Those who are at greatest risk are the nearly half of Americans who have a chronic condition: diseases like diabetes, hypertension, asthma and heart disease. These conditions need monitoring and ongoing treatment to prevent complications resulting in hospitalization or death.

 

More than a third of patients with chronic conditions do not have a usual source of health care, compared to less than 5 percent of those with insurance. As a result, 20 percent to 40 percent of those with a chronic condition report that they have not seen a health professional in the past year.

 

If one had one of these “prior conditions” before the Affordable Care Act was enacted, they would have had great difficulty in obtaining private insurance. Private insurers rejected more than 30 percent of applicants older than 60 with chronic conditions.

 

Now, Obamacare outlaws the denial of insurance to those with prior conditions. If Obamacare were to be repealed, those losing their insurance who have a chronic condition would have great difficulty in obtaining private insurance.

 

It is not a surprise that Americans without health insurance, especially those with chronic conditions, have a shortened life expectancy.

 

The Institute of Medicine has reported that the annual mortality rate for the uninsured is 25 percent higher than for the insured. Others have reported the mortality rate is 40 percent higher.

 

Do our congressmen realize the potential consequences of revoking insurance to millions of Americans who have chronic conditions?

Dr. James E. Dalen of Tucson is a former vice president for health sciences at the University of Arizona.