Bankole: Why Trump should listen to this mom’s plea

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

Before repealing the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans need to take a tour around the country, and talk to real people whose lives would be dramatically affected by the changes they are promising to make to former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic health care policy — Obamacare.

Trump and his Republican Congress need to meet Julia Pulver, 34, a West Bloomfield Township housewife and mother of four — Eleanor, 9, Sadie, 8, Avery, 7, and Alice, 4 — who are all depending on the Affordable Care Act for their health care needs.

“We are currently waiting with bated breath to see what’s going to happen because Alice is currently scheduled for surgery on her ears to correct her moderate hearing loss on Feb. 16,” Pulver said about her youngest daughter.

If Congress makes good on its promise to kill Obamacare without a realistic replacement, Pulver said it would be devastating for the family.

“Alice will be caught in the middle. Even if they stall (legislation) past her current surgery, what next? What about her long-term care? Will she be thrown back on the mercy of the merciless insurance companies?” Pulver asked.

Pulver, a nurse said she and her husband, who is a chef, are one of many families who had no insurance that guaranteed full coverage before the health care law came into effect in 2014.

She remembered vividly how in 2012 when she got laid off from her hospital job and became pregnant with Alice, that she and her family had to battle for coverage.

“I was pregnant with my youngest child (Alice) at the time who was considered a ‘preexisting condition.’ I took a temporary nursing contract job and the medical benefits the agency offered amounted to a coupon,” Pulver said. “I would get the first $1,000 of my hospital stay for my delivery covered and the rest would be up to me. Newborn care and post-partum care weren’t covered.”

Pulver turned to the insurance market to look for regular family plans, but the payments would have been astronomical and involved a longer waiting period to see a doctor.

She decided instead to go with COBRA — from her former employer — an expensive insurance program offered to employees after losing their jobs to ensure continuing health coverage.

“We had to pay $1,800 a month for me, and eventually Alice was born and another $600 per month for my husband and older children,” Pulver said. “That was $2,400 a month in premiums alone.”

Then entered the ACA in 2014.

“After the ACA was fully rolled out in 2014 we were able to buy our insurance through the market and not be denied for any preexisting condition,” Pulver said. “We had a lot more options for our health care. All six of us are covered by the ACA marketplace insurance.”

One of the arguments against the health care law by critics is that it has pushed premiums up. Pulver sees it differently.

“Our premiums, deductibles and co-pays have increased slightly every year but we have always qualified for subsidies which have kept our care affordable,” Pulver said. “And we’ve not been dropped because my kids got sick. We’ve not been discriminated against by pre-existing conditions and we’ve been able to get all our preventive care covered 100 percent.”

She said what Congress needs to focus on is strengthening the health care law.

“I would like the ACA to put protections in place about price gouging of vulnerable people with no alternatives or create a real public option where care can be obtained at cost,” Pulver said. “Congress should keep the ACA and continue to build on it. If they really care about their constituents they will swallow their pride, stop playing politics with our lives and work to make real improvements that offer more protections.”

Any changes to the ACA would impact how major insurance companies in the state provide coverage.

Dan Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan told me recently, “The ACA has been a good experience for us and our rate increases have been fairly moderate.” He said he also hoped that “Congress and the president can work out something that people can afford in terms of a decent coverage and benefits.”

While Republican lawmakers are bent on repealing the law, they also are facing growing pressure to replace the law with something realistic.

“We have a responsibility to step in and provide relief from this failing law,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and speaker of the House. “And we have to do it all at the same time so that everybody sees what we’re trying to do.”

Meanwhile, Pulver, the West Bloomfield Township mother, said she questions the Republican motives for repealing the law.

“The thought of this law being repealed for no reason but pure spite is beyond frightening. They are more concerned with punishing President Obama and destroying his legacy than they are with making improvements that can make sure that all Americans are well covered,” Pulver said.

Twitter: @bankieT

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.