Finding out that she had breast cancer shook up Jirapon Yolpan’s life. An immigrant from Thailand and a 54-year-old single mom, Jirapon had never seen a doctor in the U.S. until she received health coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). After enrolling, she scheduled her first appointment, and after several follow-up appointments she received the diagnosis.
In the years before the ACA, Jirapon, who works at an Atlanta-area restaurant, would not have been able to afford the lifesaving treatments to fight the cancer. In fact, she wouldn’t have been able to afford to see a doctor in the first place. The ACA made health care affordable for hard-working families like Jirapon’s and ensured that health care is not a luxury for the few.
Health care should not be a luxury. Families with little or no money left over after paying for housing and food should not have to settle for poor health.
Many low-income Georgians were in a gray area on health care — earning too much to qualify for government health programs, yet not having enough income to pay for their own coverage. Those families have able to purchase coverage through the ACA, receiving help through credits that paid for most of their total monthly premiums. And if Georgia had opted to expand Medicaid, as the ACA authorized it to do, many more of the state’s low-income people would have coverage.
Besides insuring some people who formerly lacked coverage, the ACA has strengthened the protections of Georgians who already had health insurance. A few of these protections include: People can no longer be barred from coverage due to pre-existing conditions; women can no longer be charged more than men for their health care; free preventive services; young adults can stay on their parents’ plans until age 26; protections from discrimination in health care; and limits on annual out-of-pocket costs and prohibitions on lifetime maximums.
People in Georgia are relying on the ACA. If it is repealed, Georgia would lose much of the federal funding that helps sustain its health care system, which has struggled to pay for uncompensated care. Additionally, repeal of the ACA would cost many Georgia jobs.
Policymakers are rushing to repeal or restrict the ACA even though that could cause many Georgians to lose their coverage. “Repeal and delay” is not the answer. Any replacement for the ACA must be an actual improvement, not a return to the past. If the law is repealed or defunded, hundreds of thousands of Georgians would be left uninsured, putting many families at risk.
Repealing the ACA would mean that many Georgians would not be able to afford health insurance and would be exposed to financial risk, poor health and job losses. Georgians deserve more from their government and that includes adequate health care.
Jirapon is in good health today, because through the ACA, treatment options were available and affordable for her. She is not alone. Thousands of Georgians rely on the ACA every day, and without it, the consequences would be deadly.
Karuna Ramachandran is the Health Program Director at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services (CPACS), a private nonprofit in Atlanta. CPACS’ mission is to promote self-sufficiency and equity for immigrants, refugees, and the underprivileged.