When a patient I’ll call Jeremiah first came to our Free Clinic in San Jose, he hobbled in on one foot, looking tired and defeated. He was coping with numerous medical problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and gout. Out of his medications, gout had again attacked his right foot. We examined him and listened. He had lost his job 3 years ago, partly because of his health and had been denied health insurance due to pre-existing conditions.
Although we work in a clinic with limited resources, we did our best to treat, counsel and support. While we only made a small difference, it helped get him back on his feet. Shortly after, he qualified for insurance through Obamacare, which has helped in getting patients like Jeremiah general medical care. In fact, since then demand for services at our free clinic has dropped noticeably.
Many don’t know that lack of insurance leads to worse health outcomes, including higher death rates. Research has shown that the uninsured receive later stage cancer diagnoses more often and get worse care for chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Although not a perfect system, Obamacare has expanded access to health services for those in need. Millions of the most vulnerable now see doctors regularly, receiving preventative screenings and treatment for chronic conditions. They also learn how to take better care of themselves through exercise, weight loss, and quitting smoking, all critical to improving the health of Americans.
The US is one of the few industrialized nations without some form of a national system of health care. But elections have consequences, so all hopes of expanding this program are now dashed. President-elect Trump has repeatedly called Obamacare a 'disaster', and said he'd 'repeal and replace' it. But there's nothing behind this phrase that will help Jeremiah and millions of vulnerable like him. They will lose their health insurance, and be lost to our impenetrable health care system. For them, the 'disaster' has just begun.