Watts: The Waiting Room

Aug 4, 2017

We recently spent four days in a Brooklyn Hospital with our daughter as she recovered from a severe infection that threatened to spread from a badly swollen cheek to her neck.

A team of surgeons operated on her mouth, scraping out the infected tissue, draining the area. IV’s pumped her with anti-biotics, nurses and doctors flowed in and out of her recovery room.

As the swelling finally started to go down, my wife and I breathed a deep sigh of relief. Although it was still another two days of monitoring and antibiotics before she left the hospital.

As frightening as the infection was, one thing we never worried about was how we were going to pay the hospital bill, because we are fortunate to have good health care insurance.

Ironically, it was while we sat in a succession of hospital waiting rooms that news updates flashed across the country about efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act - also known as Obamacare – or to simply repeal parts of it, plunging health insurance programs across the country into crisis.

As we all know now, the Senate rejected those efforts - and Senator John McCain urged a return to “regular business” – where laws are debated in committees and not developed in secret.

But even if that were possible, some doubt it would be enough. The extended turmoil has unsettled the insurance markets. The administration has urged Congress just to let Obamacare implode. And if the President follows through on plans to cut low-income subsidies, many will suffer.

Yet, in recent days some bi-partisan moves have begun. Things are looking up. Congressman Welch is part of a team of 40 Republican and Democratic house members looking at improvement to the law. Ten Republican and Democratic Governors have urged the same. And the Senate Health Committee has announced bipartisan health care hearings.

The first and most important thing that can be done is make a long-term commitment to the program that provides insurance companies money to reduce costs for low-income people – the program President Trump has been threatening to cut.

It was hard enough waiting and worrying in that Brooklyn Hospital without having to wonder if we could afford to pay for the health care our daughter so urgently needed.

The debate should be about how to expand health care coverage to serve more Americans – not about how to reduce it to serve fewer.