Obamacare in Pennsylvania has been a disaster. Not in the way U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus and others have implied, but because Pennsylvania will fail to realize the full potential that affordable health care for all would ensure. The failure to expand Medicaid in our commonwealth means that thousands of Pennsylvania residents will not be able to realize the security in knowing their health is being monitored and cared for. Their lack of good routine health care will result in their having no option but to use the emergency rooms when their illnesses escalate to a serious emergency, thus passing the cost on to the rest of us as has always been done.
The way that the marketplace was set up under the Affordable Care Act, individuals with incomes below the federal poverty level did not qualify for subsidies to lower their costs but were meant to be insured under the state’s expanded Medicaid programs so that all individuals, regardless of income, would have affordable health insurance. Pennsylvania opted out of expanding Medicaid even with the promise of federal funds to pay the majority of the cost. As a certified navigator, I have had the responsibility to explain to those who came to me, believing that they would finally be able to see a doctor, that their income was too low to qualify for the subsidies and that without expanded Medicaid in their state there was no option for them. Invariably their response: “What am I supposed to do?” I was left to sit with them, some with actual tears in their eyes, and help them locate a free health clinic near their homes.
Those I sat with were the kind, hard-working men and women who make my life nicer each day, just like the woman who brewed that nice cup of coffee I enjoy in the morning, the older gentleman who hands my Coke out the window at the drive-thru, the woman who served as a home health aide to my aging parent, the lunch aide who served my kid’s school lunches — all good people whom I could not answer when they asked, “What am I supposed to do?” It is a travesty and heartbreaking that these Pennsylvania neighbors are left with no options just because our Republican governor found it necessary to oppose a system devised by a Democratic president for political reasons.