It could be today. It could be later this week. One thing is nearly certain: the Supreme Court is about to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, so-called Obamacare in the next few days.
There has been much speculation as to how the high court will rule, and even more speculation as to the likely after-effects on healthcare with the various possible scenarios. Personally, I don’t see how the Supreme Court can NOT rule that at least part of the law is unconstitutional. But what do I know? I’m just one person who happens to believe in smaller government.
I also happen to believe the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor caring. I believe the evidence shows it will, and has already, increased the cost of health insurance, while doing nothing to meaningfully decrease the overall cost of healthcare in this county. And while increasing the number of US citizens eligible for Medicaid would theoretically increase their access to healthcare, this would not work effectively without forcing physicians to accept Medicaid payments or risk losing their medical license. (Half of primary care physicians are currently NOT accepting new Medicaid patients!) And doing so would effectively make physicians employees of the federal or state government. That’s something I don’t think I or my colleagues would accept!
Whatever happens in this coming week, I know I will continue to practice medicine. I will continue to care for patients to the best of my ability. The financial circumstances may make that harder. Some patients may not get the specific medical care they wish, or even need. But I will continue to do the best I can, and help my patients make the best decisions they can in this environment.
However the Supreme Court rules this week, the next months and even years are likely to be somewhat tumultuous in healthcare. How tumultuous nobody knows for sure. But here are a few things you can and should do as an individual in this uncertain situation. Some of these will affect you right now, and others will affect you for decades to come.
- Take personal responsibility for your health and for your health care. It’s never been more important for you to live a healthy lifestyle. And while I’m certain doctors and other health professionals will continue to do their best to give appropriate care, it’s possible there may be some disruptions. And the long-term costs of healthcare are not likely to decrease any time soon! Don’t wait for the government or any other entity to take care of you: take responsibility for living healthy NOW!
- Ask questions about your own healthcare. Don’t be afraid to ask, “How much does this cost?” And by that I do NOT mean “How much do I have to pay?” Although that’s important, you should also think about and ask about the total cost for any medication, test, surgery, or other medical care you receive. Even if you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket, somebody has to pay! Knowing costs gives you power to make decisions. Healthcare Bluebook will give you an idea of appropriate costs in your area, and give you ammunition to negotiate if needed.
- Know your personal and family health history. While most if not all physicians, hospitals, and other health-care entities will undoubtedly do their best to maintain the availability of records, in uncertain times things can happen. That may or may not mean, for you, obtaining a personal copy of all your health records, which is your right. At a minimum, make a written list of any surgeries, diagnoses, allergies, and medications. This is a good idea at any time, but especially right now.
- Let your voice be heard. Elections are coming up. Decisions made now will affect YOU! Ask those who are asking for your vote their philosophy on healthcare. If you’re a senior, ask about Medicare – not only today, but for the future. If you’re a young person, ask about the long-term tax burden of any decisions made. Remember, somebody has to pay for it! Do you want it to be you?
- Remember, health is more than physical, and more than healthcare. Your attitudes, your relationships, your spiritual connection with God – all that and more DO make a difference in your wellbeing today, tomorrow, and for eternity.
Whatever their ruling, the Supreme Court will not usher in the end of the world this week. I don’t like the bureaucracy and mountains of regulations and paperwork involved in healthcare. And I certainly would be disappointed if those aspects of healthcare became even worse. But life will go on, and doctors will take care of patients.
One good thing: if this entire healthcare controversy increases the number of people who embrace personal responsibility for their health, that will have been a positive outcome. And that would perhaps be the best of all possible outcomes!
Your turn: How do you think the Supreme Court’s ruling will affect healthcare? How do you feel about Obamacare? Is there some way in which you can use this as a stimulus to take increased personal responsibility for your own health? I’d love to hear from you.
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