I read with great interest and considerable dismay Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent article in the National Review, “Congress and Governors: Just Say No to Obamacare.” As governor of Texas, Abbott represents all Texans, including me. But in his battle cry inciting Congress and his fellow governors to not only denounce the Affordable Care Act but vow to crush it, Abbott states loud and clear that my life and the lives of the million-plus Texans receiving health care via Obamacare don’t matter to him.
Here’s a little bit about me: I am 25, have a college degree and work on contract for a large Houston corporation. As a contractor, I don’t receive medical benefits and purchase my personal health insurance through the federal health insurance marketplace created by Obamacare. I qualify for premium assistance due to my income level. I also have a chronic condition that requires me to take expensive daily medication.
In 2014, due to health complications, I lost a previous job after being employed with that company for four years. I suddenly found myself without health insurance. Up until that time, I had always had health insurance. The cost of my medication was ridiculously expensive and I could not afford it. This impacted my personal life and my health. I remember on many occasions trying to convince myself that I didn’t need my daily medication. I was always stressed beyond any limit, terrified and worried about what would happen to me if I became really sick.
Many people do not realize the importance of having health insurance. As Abbott knows more than most people, sometimes unexpected things happen in our lives that are totally out of our control. It is so important to have the peace of mind to know that if you become ill, are involved in an accident or simply must visit a doctor to receive treatment, you are covered. It is no understatement that having health insurance saved my life.
Abbott calls the Affordable Care Act an “eponymous welfare program” and equates access to health care through tax credits to “giving away tax money.” Would he characterize federal tax credits for educational expenses, home mortgages and child care in the same way? The premium assistance that I receive in order to afford my health insurance is no different than any of these other tax credits. A healthy population is in the best interest of our nation, our economy and our future as a world leader.
The governor is stumbling over his own argument. If he believes that patients need to be empowered to “take control of their health care decisions,” then he can’t also make the argument that by having insurance, I will consume more health care. Does Abbott overuse the health care system because he receives subsidized health care as a state employee? Why would Abbott think my decision-making ability regarding my personal health care would be any less rational than his own?
Abbott presents a three-legged health care policy plan, with health savings accounts as one leg holding up the stool. If I as a college-educated, full-time contractor can’t afford a monthly individual health insurance premium, how in the world would putting money into a health savings account help me to get coverage? Would I be able to set aside enough money to pay cash for my daily medication? Would I be able to set aside $50,000 to cover a catastrophic health event like back surgery? Would I be able to set aside $100,000 if I were to be diagnosed with cancer to pay for treatment? His policy platform is wobbly at best.
I ask that the next time Abbott considers creating a name for himself on the national conservative political scene he remembers his job as my governor and the governor of 27 million others. We only want the same opportunities to access health care that Abbott himself has.