Seeking Smoother Air

So the election happened. I don’t even have to know how you voted to know that you probably woke up on November 9 utterly gob-smacked, one way or another. I won’t tell you my first thought that day, as it’s NSFW. But my second thought was, “uh oh, what’s going to happen to my healthcare?” I know that’s selfish but this is like when you’re on an airplane and they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first and then assist others. So I put on my mask and tried to breathe normally; the mask would not inflate but oxygen was flowing.

See, I have one of those pesky “pre-existing conditions”. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, I had to get my health insurance through a public plan run by the state, a program that went away once ACA was in place. Having just lost my ACA marketplace health plan (my insurer took its marbles and went home), I’ve enrolled in another plan off-marketplace. I hope it works – I’m giving up every last one of my 20-year doctor relationships to make this move. But at least I can afford it, so there’s that. Mask. Oxygen. Breathing.

That done, my third thought was, “But what about all those other people who depend on ACA healthcare plans and subsidies and Medicaid? Are we about to see a massive surge in the number of uninsured people coming to Mercy Health Clinic for care?” Well, it might not have been quite that well ordered and eloquent of a thought, more of a primal scream; but you get the gist.

Now, normally, a huge swell of new customers is a good thing for a business. But Mercy isn’t a regular business. It’s a nonprofit medical clinic for very poor people who are ineligible for the ACA plans or for Medicaid. As such, we’d rather hoped that there would come a day when everyone could access the health care system without requiring a safety net like Mercy. Most safety-net agencies cheerfully aspire to being put out of business in that way, with the unmet need having been, well, MET. How lofty is such an aspiration — health care is a basic human right, after all, and surely we can agree on that? Call me a pessimist but I’m getting the distinct feeling that we as a nation do not necessarily agree on that. Like I said: gob-smacked.

So what lies ahead when it comes to healthcare in America? The fact is, for right now, we just don’t know. The ACA could stay more or less intact or be completely repealed or something in between. It could receive tweaks, or a sledgehammer. We could simply be in a patch of turbulence, or the plane could be going down. (Hmm. One can stretch an airplane metaphor too far, it turns out. Sorry about that.) It’s safe to say, though, that we’re in a period of great uncertainty, at the very least.

Here’s something to chew on as you either celebrate or mourn the changes that loom ahead. Mercy Health Clinic’s patients live with this same kind uncertainty every day, and they were doing it long before November 9. One aspect of their lives that they know they can count on is Mercy Health Clinic. Mercy has been providing free high-quality medical care, education, pharmaceuticals, and other services to the most vulnerable in Montgomery County for over 15 years. And we’re going to be here for them regardless of what happens out there. If you’re ready to invest in something certain, support the Mercy Health Clinic with your time or your money, or both. Oh, and by the way, the “fasten seat belt” sign is on, and will remain on for the duration of the flight.

— Pam Saussy, Board Member

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