COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With a new administration taking over the White House next week and a Republican-controlled Congress vowing to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, many Americans are wondering what will happen to their healthcare coverage.
For Talitha Johnson, a business owner who lives in Pickerington, the Affordable Care Act has been a huge relief. She’s married, with three kids, ages 4, 6 and 12.
“Before ACA, my husband had a job. We were on his employer’s provided insurance. Everything was fine,” Johnson said. “When I decided to venture out and become a business owner, we’re now on our own.”
Johnson’s family was uninsured for a brief period of time before the Affordable Care Act was passed.
“At the time I was pregnant, and so that’s, you know, I need prenatal care and I need to be able to get in and make sure that my pregnancy is going OK,” Johnson said. “I was high-risk. So to be high-risk pregnancy and uninsured, it’s awful.”
The ACA has allowed her and her family to have dental and medical coverage, including preventive care. Without it, she said, they’d be at a loss.
“For the most part, we’re pretty healthy people,” Johnson said. “But who’s to say? You know, anything can happen at any time. Tomorrow’s not promised to any of us.”
ProgressOhio and Policy Matters Ohio are both organizations that are concerned about the future of the ACA. At a press conference Wednesday in Columbus, speakers discussed how the ACA has helped patients and acknowledged their concerns with its uncertain future.
As an internal medicine and pediatrics physician at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, Dr. Beth Liston described patients who came in before the ACA with conditions that could no longer be treated effectively.
“I can remember one patient who had an ear infection to start with,” Liston said. “He was a farmworker, he was a hard worker, always working all the time, and so he didn’t really have time to kind of pause and say, ‘What’s going on with my ear?'”
But the problem grew because he didn’t seek medical care.
“It had spread so much that it had gone sort of into his brain and he had to have brain surgery, just to clean out all this infection,” Liston said. “He may never get back to that point where he was really working on his farm and doing all the things that he was so productive with.”
Liston said under the ACA, she’s seen “people coming in earlier and preventing those complications, but then also once things occur, being able to have a doctor to follow with to keep things in check.”
Tim Colburn, the CEO of Berger Health System in rural Pickaway County, agreed that the ACA has been critical in allowing his hospital to treat approximately 3,000 patients who have insurance.
“You have insurance, you don’t have to worry about paying-personally paying your health care bill. Your insurance is going to help you do that,” Colburn said. “And if you have access and you have an illness, you can get treatment. You don’t have to sit at home and contemplate what decisions you’re going to make.”
According to Colburn, approximately 70 percent of patients at his hospital are insured through a governmental program, such as Medicaid or Medicare. Repealing the ACA, he said, would mean the hospital would have to reconsider the services it offers or the personnel it employs to make those services available.
The Ohio Hospital Association, which supports retaining insurance coverage for the formerly uninsured, has said it believes the ACA is a flawed law and that it can be improved.
“When you have a new administration coming in, there’s always that option on the table of reforming and improving upon previous policies,” said John Palmer, director of public relations at the Ohio Hospital Association. “The ACA was far from perfect, so we want this opportunity to really go in and see where we can be a strong partner in making some of those adjustments.”
Still, the uncertainty of the ACA’s future and what could replace it is worrisome for Talitha Johnson and many other families.
“For us, if you take it away, you know, what about my kids?” Johnson said.