By Shaina Smith
As the nation remains in a temporary transitional period, whereby new members of Congress, state lawmakers and key leadership officials are settling into their new positions, there’s an area of focus people with pain are diligently watching: healthcare coverage.
News stories and articles are flooding television programs and social media sites that warns the nation of a possible overhaul and replacement of the existing health insurance system. As there are 1 in 3 Americans riddled with some form of chronic pain, a complex disease which requires carefully calculated assessment and management, U.S. Pain Foundation is speaking out about how change of this magnitude could be a matter of life and death for some patients.
You may find yourself wondering, what happens to the healthcare system if changes are made and how will this impact my treatment plan? That’s the million-dollar question being asked among a varied range of individuals, and the answer may include the significant altering of a person’s treatment. That’s according to National Director of Policy and Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation, Cindy Steinberg.
“The organization and patients are worried about what affects this might have on people with pain, many who cannot work and rely on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare for their healthcare,” Steinberg explained. “Individuals who depend on such plans includes people with chronic pain who must have access to necessary treatments to remain functional.”
Throughout the decades, the United States has been made aware of the commonalities shared among nations when it comes to the healthcare system, as outlined in The Commonwealth Fund’s 1998 Annual Report. The report found that similarities among diverse nations included “effective services that improve the health and quality of life of their citizens, equitable access to those services, and efficient use of resources”. How to obtain those goals may vary from country to country. One step that had been taken by the United States to reach those goals were in the form of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Now, 18 years later from that report titled Common concerns: International Issues in Health Care System Reform, Americans are facing the potential to have the healthcare system altered. The Commonwealth Fund’s January 5th publication, which studied the state-by-state effect of repealing federal tax credits and Medicaid expansion, found that canceling the ACA’s tax credits and Medicaid expansion would double the number of uninsured Americans. The study also found that as millions lose their insurance, hospitals and other providers would see their uncompensated medical care costs soar by $1.1 trillion from 2019 to 2028, and they would experience major revenue losses as well.
With such uncertainty as to what, if any, new system will be introduced to lawmakers, it’s no wonder that the word “repeal” is coming off as a fearful term. “Without knowing much about what may replace the Affordable Care Act, it’s difficult for U.S. Pain Foundation to make a definitive statement,” shared Vice President of the organization, Nicole Hemmenway. “That said, many people with pain have pre-existing conditions. Our Board feels dismantling the ACA will harm people with chronic illnesses who rely on access to treatment options covered under their health plans.”
Outside of U.S. Pain, partner organizations and coalitions have notified constituents of concerns, encouraging that they reach out to their senators and request that they vote no on ACA repeal legislation. Rallies are being planned, some by elected officials such as Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine, who recently encouraged residents to join the Rally to Save Our Healthcare at the Virginia state capitol on January 15th; the Governor, fellow senators and congressmen are expected to attend. Trending hashtags such as #ProtectOurCare which is an online campaign led by Families USA is drumming up the support of patient advocates and has already gained the endorsement of Democratic Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 114th Congress, Nancy Pelosi. State coalitions are forming, comprised of healthcare groups, advocates and others which have formed to preserve the ACA. Letters are being sent to congress by coalitions who are requesting a replacement plan in place that won’t create catastrophic results.
U.S. Pain joins other patient-centered partners who are patiently waiting for the new administration to offer the chronic pain community a concrete plan which will cover their medically necessary treatments, while also balancing the healthcare system’s built-in structure to offer affordable coverage. Until such a plan has been presented to an already vulnerable population of citizens, the word “repeal” will have patients cautious about their healthcare coverage options.
Shaina Smith is Director of State Advocacy & Alliance Development for U.S. Pain Foundation. Diagnosed with various pain conditions, including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, Shaina utilizes her Journalism background to mobilize pain patient advocates and engage volunteers to participate in awareness programs.