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ACA or DOA?: An Interview with Bobbi Dempsey


The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) has been a source of considerable controversy since its implementation, with critics on both sides. Some say it’s too liberal, others say it’s not liberal enough. The benefits, however, can’t be denied, with State’s accepting funds for expanding Medicaid, and children 26 or under remaining on parents insurance – not to mention the grand subsidies provided to everyday Americans.

With the Republican Party encouraged by President Trump’s unwieldy mission to undo almost anything established by President Obama, and a recent decision by a Texas judge that declared the law unconstitutional (this is currently being appealed), the ACA and its progress are under threat of dismantling.

Writer Bobbi Dempsey published an article on Slate that recounts her families fight for universal health care from the Clinton Administration to now, saying that any move to strip away the ACA’s positives would be a horrid negative for the country. I interviewed her to get some further insight into this vital issue:

Bill Arceneaux: I was one of many twenty-something-year-olds to get back on parental insurance due to the Affordable Care Act. How do you feel this current generation (millennials) has been tackling the struggle for better health coverage?

Bobbi Dempsey: I feel sorry for young people today. It’s hard enough trying to get started on a career, or just to find a decent job in general, but now you have many companies deliberately trying to keep employees in part-time status just to avoid having to provide benefits. My sons have now reached the age where they were dropped from my insurance, so they have faced the challenges of trying to get medical care while uninsured. Just last week, my youngest son had to pay several hundred dollars out of pocket when he came down with the flu.

BA: Your article for Slate is compelling, highlighting the need for maintaining what little progress we’ve established, for the sake of our very livelihood, by way of remembering that the fight has been going on for quite some time. What, do you feel, is the next big step forward for health care in America?

BD: I think if the ACA had been enacted in its original form as initially conceived/proposed, it would have been much more successful. There were definitely some issues with the ACA (as passed) that needed to be addressed, but we were headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, I feel that the pieces that have now been chipped away from the ACA are sending us quickly backward. We need some major initiatives to get us back to a place that the ACA intended. But I’m not optimistic, because the current administration seems intent on destroying the entire system.

BA: Louisiana, just a few years ago, expanded Medicaid under the ACA, covering many who previously had nothing (including myself). It has also led to job creation and other benefits to the community, especially in the hearts and minds of people who dislike “ObamaCare.” It’s funny how “don’t knock it til you try it” rings true in this case. Do you have conservative friends or know of any Republican voters who have evolved on socialized health care?

BD: Sadly, I haven’t really seen that, except for people who have experienced medical crises for which they were able to get treatment thanks to the ACA. It seems like for this, as with many other issues, conservatives are against these programs and initiatives until they are personally affected by the issue. My state of PA also has the expanded Medicaid, and I know many Republicans who have benefitted from it – such as by allowing their adult kids to stay on their policies – and don’t even seem to realize it.

BA: The current Mayor of New York City announced that all NYC residents, including undocumented immigrants, will be guaranteed comprehensive health care. Might true Universal coverage be something we achieve on the grassroots/local level? Can it be soon on a National level?

BD: I was so excited to see the development in NYC! I am hoping perhaps it might inspire other municipalities to research this and consider similar initiatives. I really think this sort of grassroots evolution is the only way we even have a chance of going in the direction of universal healthcare. Right now, people who are against any sort of universal system are so strongly set in their opposition of it that they generally aren’t even open to discussing it or hearing about its potential advantages. If these initiatives are successful on a smaller, regional level, I am hoping it might illustrate the value of universal programs and gradually open more people’s minds.

BA: During the mid-90s Clinton administration attempts at reform, my mother had my autistic fraternal twin brother and I make up our own gift cards in support of this potential change, for use in national promotions. Mine featured Uncle Sam being examined in a Doctor’s office, riddles with Chicken Pox. I think everyone has their story, positive or negative, in fighting for what should be basic civil rights. Why must we dress up our trials and tribulations for policymakers to understand?

BD: That’s a good question. For a long time, there’s been a tried-and-true tactic where politicians and policymakers feel the need to put a “face” on an issue, usually by trotting out a group of poor and/or sick people who share their tales of woe. I shared my own firsthand experience of serving as one of those poor people in my Slate piece. It is discouraging that we have to go through the whole production of presenting this dramatic display, just to try and get access to things that should be basic human rights. Even then, it seems that many people—particularly Republicans, in my experience—often don’t care about an issue or support initiatives until they are impacted by the issue personally.

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