In his “My Turn” column published Nov. 14, Tony Yorba continued his ongoing diatribe against the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Yorba has written a number of columns over the past several years decrying the planning and now the roll out of the ACA. In his latest submission, Yorba uses the ACA as a reason to attack Sen. Mark Begich, a supporter of affordable health coverage for all Alaskans.
I applaud Sen. Begich for standing up for Alaskans in need of health insurance coverage. He voted for a law that enacts long-needed reforms of the insurance industry. Before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, insurance companies engaged in abusive practices like rescission, in which they would cancel health coverage when someone got sick, and insurance companies denied coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. There are 127,000 Alaskans who have preexisting conditions ranging from breast cancer to asthma who will now be protected from the whims of insurance companies who could, before the ACA, deny them coverage at a time when they needed it most.
The ACA also requires insurers to provide essential health benefits like prescription drug coverage, services for mental health and substance abuse, maternity and newborn care, rehabilitation services, and preventive and wellness services.
Perhaps the most blatant inaccuracy in Yorba’s column (and a familiar right wing tactic meant to frighten senior citizens) is his claim about Medicare. Here are the facts: according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Affordable Care Act is protecting the solvency of Medicare. How? By cracking down on fraud and eliminating improper payments. Yorba claims that eliminating fraud equals cuts to Medicare, an absurd mischaracterization of the law. There is a reason AARP supports the Affordable Care Act: it strengthens health care and retirement security for America’s seniors.
Sen. Begich also stands up for Alaskans who would have been helped by an expansion of Medicaid — those 40,000 Alaskans that Gov. Sean Parnell so unceremoniously threw under the bus. Even the conservative Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce support Medicaid expansion. As Sen. Begich stated, “Without the expansion, people who cannot afford insurance will continue to get their health care needs met in hospital emergency rooms across the state — the most expensive way to get health care.” And, as the senator pointed out, those of us who are lucky enough to be insured will end up paying those costs through higher premiums.
The Reverend Dr. William Sloane Coffin, a Presbyterian minister and activist, pondered the ways in which our modern planet is threatened, and believes we live in, “ ... a Dickensian world of wretched excess and wretched despair ...”
We see the world of wretched despair every day when someone we know or read about is in danger of losing everything due to lack of access to quality, affordable health care. They can lose not only their material possessions, but even their lives because they cannot afford to visit a doctor.
I despair for those Alaskans who will be left uninsured. Our governor and Mr. Yorba present themselves as Christians, so I would like to remind them of the Apostle John’s comments on caring for those in need. In 1 John 3:17: “But whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?”
Thank you, Senator Begich, for your support of health care for all Alaskans rather than just the chosen few.
• Kimberly Metcalfe is a union representative and the Democratic National Committeewoman for Alaska.