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Eugene T. Dyszlweski: The Affordable Care Act: An Abundance of Blessings

BY EUGENE T. DYSZLWESKI

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a godsend for pastoral care. The gradual phase-in has produced a continuous cascade of blessings for individuals and for families. Some of this is evident from the benefits that are already in place. Young adults are able to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Coverage cannot be denied because of a pre-existing condition and the lifetime limitations have been removed. In addition, preventive care at no cost is available for all plans.

While the facts may seem commonplace and mundane, the reality is these health benefits affect the lives of real people. It seems that the average person may not have a clear idea of how the ACA works and how valuable it is.

When our lives are busy we naturally tend to focus our attention on our own issues. Not everything gets on our radar. However, as religious leaders responsible for pastoral care, we have a unique vantage point. We are privileged to be a part of the lives of many individuals and families. In some cases, when the prayers are done, we get to hear the stories.

Not everyone has met with a brokenhearted father who is worried because his uninsured young adult child requires prohibitively expensive medical care. Well, we have. We have seen the hurt and we are glad this unnecessary horror is over. You may not have met with a young mother who is afraid to accept a better position in another company because her pregnancy-related pre-existing condition might prevent coverage on the new firm’s insurance plan. Thankfully, the ACA has put this problem behind us.

Under the Affordable Care Act women with insurance will have preventive reproductive health care with no cost sharing (co-pays or deductibles). This includes a variety of screenings and preventive services. Who can argue with prevention? We have come to realize that for some women, this can be vitally important.

One noteworthy example is prescreening for gestational diabetes. There are no out-of-pocket expenses for pregnant women receiving the screening blood work for gestational diabetes. If undiscovered and left untreated, this condition can hurt the mother and the baby. With timely diagnosis and treatment, the risk of health problems is significantly reduced for both mother and baby. This is a problem that is easily addressed but very damaging if ignored.

When we read that 47 million women who have insurance will finally receive preventive care with no co-pays and that over 28,000 Rhode Island women will be eligible for Medicaid or subsidized health insurance, they look like large, incomprehensible numbers. The reality is these are not just numbers or statistics. We’re talking about real women, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and neighbors.

With the Affordable Care Act, the prospect of expensive medical care is less of a threat to the economic security of many middle-class and working-poor families. Foreclosure and bankruptcy are no longer the price for adequate medical care. Parents are less concerned for their young adult children. People are not shackled to a job because of insurance. Preventive measures are taking aim at chronic health problems. Fewer tears are shed at the sanctuary door.

The Rev. Eugene T. Dyszlewski is interim pastor of Lime Rock Baptist Church, in Lincoln. This piece was also signed by the Rev. Amy Frenze, pastor of Hope Congregational United Church of Christ, in East Providence, and Rabbi Peter W. Stein of Temple Sinai, in Cranston.

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