Margaret Johnson Renfour has been a nurse for 23 years. During that time, the Jacksonville, Florida resident has witnessed professionally and in her own family what happens when someone doesn’t have access to health care insurance and medical services. In a conference call with reporters Thursday, she explained some of the challenges patients faced before the passage of the Affordable Care Act two years ago.
“I saw insurance companies tell my patients that they’d have to wait weeks before getting treated or that they wouldn’t cover anything at all. I saw families struggle to save on their premiums and prescriptions so they could still pay the mortgage and buy groceries,” she said.
Renfour also watched her sister-in-law struggle to get care during a battle with ovarian cancer, which she says was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Americans continue to be divided over the legislation, which faces a challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court next week. In an interview on Marketwatch Thursday, President Obama defended the legislation and said that, “over time, as it gets implemented, I think people will say this was the right thing to do.”
According to a Pew Research center poll published this week, 47 percent of Americans said they approve of the law and 45 percent disapprove. In addition, 83 percent of African-Americans approve of the law compared to 37 percent of whites. Every Republican presidential candidate has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected in November.
“I know there are people who are opposed to the law, but until they walk in the shoes of people who haven’t had access they won’t understand it,” Renfour said.
The reason for African-Americans' overwhelming support of the legislation has much to do with the fact that they are among the groups that stand to benefit most because of provisions that provide free preventive services, which ultimately save money and lives; prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions; and enable young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. Once the law is fully implemented, up to seven million African-Americans are expected to gain access to health care coverage.
But not everyone thinks the reform bill is a cause for celebration.
“The president’s health care law was a legislative abomination two years ago, and it still is today as it continues to threaten our nation’s job creators, taxpayers, families, and senior citizens,” said Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, who chairs the House Republican Conference. “The importance of repealing this law – piece by piece if necessary – cannot be overstated.”
The Obama campaign has launched a new page on its website titled “The Faces of Change” that features Americans sharing their health care stories and puts a face to the parts of the law that Republicans oppose, such as the elimination of lifetime spending caps and denying care to children with pre-existing conditions.
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