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May 05, 2017

Possible repeal of Affordable Care Act worries health professionals, Philly doctor writes

Opinion Health Care
05062017_ACA_repeal_vote_CSPAN Source/CSPAN

The final tally on Thursday's vote in the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as seen on CSPAN.

On Thursday, I was seeing patients in hospitals in the city. It was a busy day. The patients I saw were newly diagnosed with chronic conditions or had exacerbations of chronic conditions that required hospital management.

There was a powerful sense of concern amongst the patients and nurse. It is the same sense you get when you know a patient isn’t going to do well or you know something is just not right. This feeling generally always has to do with the medical condition of the patient.

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However, the sense that was palpable had nothing to do medical diagnoses and everything to do with the news playing in the background.

Two hundred seventeen members of Congress voted Thursday to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Patients were asking me if they were going to lose their insurance. The nurses I met had furrowed brows, worrying for their patients.

When my patient asked me about his insurance, I could not provide him with reassurance, which made me feel like I failed him.

One of the most important jobs of a health care provider is to provide reassurance to a patient – reassurance that their symptoms were normal, reassurance that the medication was working as it should, reassurance that we were on the same team. When my patient asked me about his insurance, I could not provide him with reassurance, which made me feel like I failed him. As I walked out of his room, the nurses, the physicians, the medical assistants all asked each other, “what’s going to happen?”

In medicine, teams work together and not everyone agrees with what to do at any given time with a patient. However, the AHCA has brought on the rare moment when everyone in health care – from the American College of Physicians, to the American Medical Association, to the American Nurses Association all came together in strong opposition of the bill.

This is a pivotal moment in our history. Yes, the Affordable Care Act had its flaws. But being a woman, being pregnant, having a pre-existing condition should not preclude people from accessing affordable care they deserve.

However, if the repeal survives the Senate, countless Americans will be affected. My patients will lose their health care. Your family members will lose their health care.

This is the moment – patients, physicians, nurses, family members come together and fight for our health.

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Fatima Z. Syed, M.D., MSc works in Philadelphia.