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January 04, 2019

Republicans’ continued attacks on health care threaten my small business in Philly

'I live in constant fear that politics will ruin the progress we’ve made as a country'

Opinion Health Insurance
01042018_Obamacare_Texas_USAT Photo by Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS/Sipa USA

Cary Clark, dressed as the Grim Reaper, protests during a rally at Burnett Park in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 5, 2018. Three months before a federal judge struck down the Affordable Care Act, the Fort Worth Rally for Pre-existing Coverage Protection was held in support of the ACA.

On December 14, a single federal judge wielded his power and ruled against our health care, threatening people across the country who were given access to the care they deserve when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into effect.

In the United States, 133 million people have preexisting conditions. I am one of them. The ACA is the only thing standing between me and the insurance companies.

When my wife and I first struck out on our own and bought our business from its founders in 2005, we were blindsided by how difficult it was to get coverage for our family. This was before the ACA, and costs were astronomical and unregulated. I was paying $2,200 a month for basic coverage. What’s more, the rates increased 25-30 percent a year.


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To make our new reality even more bleak, I had a back surgery a few years prior. Under the old system, this meant that my back was virtually uninsurable. Any off step or twinge could have meant financial ruin for my family and our new livelihood.

The ACA changed everything for us. Our insurance bill went down by $1,000 a month. To see our premiums decreased by nearly half in the first year was incredible. That was money we could reinvest into our business. In addition, I was able to get routine preventive care to keep my back and other health issues under control.

The ACA made it so that we could access care before it was an emergency situation. Until the Republican sabotage of the ACA began in 2017, rates were relatively stable, and we felt secure knowing we could get care.

Now, I live in constant fear that politics will ruin the progress we’ve made as a country. We should be improving the ACA – not tearing it apart.

It would be unconscionable to think that we would allow our children to go without insurance, but there are families who have made this impossible choice.

The ACA brought us peace of mind as employers. For the first time, young employees of businesses like ours were able to either stay on their parents’ health insurance because they were not yet 26, or they were able to purchase a subsidized quality plan from the marketplace that they could afford. The repeal of the individual mandate earlier this year was the first major threat to affordability for all of us. And the attacks have continued despite the outcry from individuals, businesses and organizations across the country.

The recent Texas v. Azar ruling flies in the face of what Americans really want. On November 6, voters turned out for health care. We stood up for the idea that everyone has a right to be seen by a doctor and get the treatment they need without losing their home or business. We voted out a House of Representatives that passed health repeal scores of times, sending a clear message to the new House that we want affordable health care for all.

If we continue on the path of tearing down progress on health care, my best option will be to go without coverage for myself for the next four years — until I reach the age of eligibility for Medicare. It would be unconscionable to think that we would allow our children to go without insurance, but there are families who have made this impossible choice. The number of uninsured children is on the rise, and there is no doubt in my mind that this is because of the attacks we’ve seen on the ACA and the reduction in public education about how to get covered.

I worry for the future of our country and the health of our children. I also worry about the health of our small businesses if it becomes impossible for individuals to get health care coverage that is not tied to employment. The outlook is grim for our country and the health of our communities.

However, I remain hopeful that an appeals court will respect our democracy, reverse the ruling, and protect our health care and small businesses.

Michael Row is the owner of Penn Book Center in Philadelphia.

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