In 2011, I had a health-related emergency. The pressure of full-time graduate student status, internships, and laying the groundwork for future job prospects (during the recession) didn’t interact well with my body’s still-processing response to a sexual assault I had experienced a few years prior. Balancing my personal ambitions, schoolwork, and regular meetings with my lawyers was not an easy task, and over time, it took a toll on my mental and physical health.
I share my story, not for sympathy, I know how to take care of myself; I share because it’s important to illustrate how a key aspect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) helped me access healing. Quite simply, the ACA enabled me to stay on my parents’ insurance when I otherwise would have been without, and thus, I was able to access the services I was in desperate need of without tapping into a non-existent savings or checking account to cover the outrageous medical costs. This specific provision of the ACA went into effect just under 16 months prior to when I needed it. For that, I am truly grateful to the U.S. Congress and President Obama.
The Republican party now controls the U.S. Congress and is already voting to repeal the ACA in its entirety. “Repeal and replace” is their plan, but it is highly irresponsible to repeal this law without actually providing a plan to replace it.
A debate over the law’s effectiveness and ability to improve healthcare services in America is fine with me. But I personally know dozens of other people who experienced similar mental health-related emergencies and other health challenges during their schooling and benefited from continuous health insurance coverage that was guaranteed through the age of 26.
I encourage you to learn about how Obamacare affected your family members and community and call to share that information with your elected representatives. Make sure they seriously consider the grave implications of slashing health coverage for 20 million people. We cannot afford to send all these people back to emergency rooms because they don’t know where else to go or leave them without care.
Encourage your elected representative and senators to support the ACA — our families and friends are relying on it. And if you learn that your elected officials are set on reform or repeal, it’s our duty to emphasize the need for actual improvements and ensuring that mental health and substance use disorder treatment services remain included at parity with all other medical services.
Adam D. Swanson, MPP, is a public speaker, writer and advocate dedicated to public health system equity. He helps state governments, health care organizations and universities improve the quality of care for people in crisis as the senior prevention specialist at the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Adam has served on international expert panels to address minority health disparities, and managed national programs to help behavioral health organizations adopt innovative treatment services for youth with serious mental illnesses. In U.S. Senate, he helped advance anti-bullying legislation and HIV/AIDS reforms. Adam is a former Mental Health America fellow and serves on P4SM’s Youth Leadership Board. You can find him on Twitter @.