By Rich Bodee
In 2010, the House passed the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and President Obama signed it as a law. The goals were simple: to provide more Americans with health insurance, to provide better care, and to reduce the costs of care.
But since 2010, there have been many critics of the program, mainly Republicans. Their criticisms include that the more people insurance companies cover, the more the actual rates will rise. In addition, under Obamacare, Medicaid became a state decision. Therefore, states that have not expanded Medicaid inevitably increased the number of people who are uninsured.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a conservative talking point for years and its removal was a big piece of President-elect Trump’s campaign.
Trump has said he wants to “get rid of the lines around states to increase competition.” As it is, health insurance providers can’t just sell insurance anywhere. There are specific boundaries, although a few states have opened those boundaries, but buying insurance from another state has its own drawbacks under the current system as well.
The question remains if removing all of the boundaries around states would increase competition and foster a freer marketplace. Under Trump’s logic costs would decrease due to a more competitive market. However, Trump has said that he intends to keep pre-existing conditions, a mandate of Obamacare that forces insurance companies to cover expenses and care for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Recently, the Trump administration tapped Tom Price for Health Secretary, a man who has vehemently opposed Obamacare since its inception. Given his policies and his stance on several issues, two weeks ago the New York Times called Price “a radical choice.”
But what we all really want to know is how is this going to affect our own communities?
We need to start by looking at the statistics. According to IllinoisHealthMatters.org, the number of uninsured residents living in Berwyn, Cicero, and parts of the Oak Park townships is 37,392. In addition, according to Loyola Medicine’s Community Health Profile, 30 percent of residents in Berwyn and Cicero are under the age of 18 and less than 10 percent are over the age of 65.
The most interesting statistic in the Community Health Profile is a chart that shows “years of potential life lost.” The predetermined end age point on this chart is 75-years old, so any end age point prior to 75 is considered a year lost. West Suburban Cook County comes in at 19.1 years lost and Suburban Cook County is at 18.7 years lost.
At first glance, this chart doesn’t offer any indication that would connect years lost to healthcare. But another chart follows the first. This second chart depicts the leading causes of death and the top five are as follows: heart disease, cancer, stroke, COPD, and pneumonia. The rates of mortality due to heart disease, cancer, and stroke in West Suburban Cook County are higher than the state average.
The reasonable conclusion that we can draw from this is that the residents of Berwyn, Cicero, and other parts of Cook County are not getting the healthcare they need and the healthcare that they deserve.
I think the question that we all need to ask ourselves is, has Obamacare failed us? Wouldn’t it be a wise choice to at least give Trump’s plan a try given the clear shortcomings depicted in the Community Health Profile?
The Berwyn Health Department did not return repeated requests for comment.