Pain Patients: Vote As If Your Life Depends On It
Pain Patients: Vote As If Your Life Depends On ItOctober 30th, 2018 by Cindy Perlin
I generally try to stay away from politics on this page. Although I hold strong political views, that is not what I am here to do. I am here to help pain patients find safe, effective affordable treatment. However, it is an inescapable fact that it is our elected representatives who determine whether the care we need is available and affordable and even whether it is legal. And, the views of candidates running for office throughout the U.S. vary widely when it comes to access to health care.
In these days of hyper-partisanship, elected representatives almost always vote with their party. So, even if we don’t know a specific candidate’s position on the issues, it is fairly safe to say that he or she will vote with their party’s position. Let’s look at the positions taken by the two major parties.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) was passed by Democrats and repeal of it has been attempted dozens of times by Republicans. The ACA has expanded health insurance coverage to tens of millions of people through Medicaid expansion and subsides to make insurance more affordable to low and middle income people. Among its most important provisions when it comes to people with chronic illness: it prohibits health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and cutting them off if they get sick. It also prevents them from charging sick people more for coverage. These practices were common before the ACA.
There are problems with the ACA. The most important one is that insurance premiums are too high and continuing to rise, along with healthcare costs. It still doesn’t cover everyone, in large part because many states, all Republican, refused to opt in to expanded Medicaid coverage. Republicans ran on a platform of “Repeal and Replace” in 2016. To date, no replacement has been offered, only attempts to end the important protections of the ACA. They successfully ended the mandatory insurance provision, which makes insurance more expensive for everyone else. Now attempts are being made by Republicans to end protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Republican threats to insurance coverage don’t end there. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully led the fight for tax cuts last year that generously endowed the wealthiest among us and the richest corporations while throwing crumbs to the rest of us. These tax cuts will increase the national debt by trillions of dollars. Now McConnell has announced that we need to reduce the deficit by cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, programs that are absolutely critical to the chronically ill. Democrats favor protecting these essential programs and reversing the tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals.
Both parties have cozied up to the pharmaceutical companies, which disburse lots of campaign contributions. Democrats have been much more open to the idea of controlling the prices pharmaceutical companies can charge for drugs and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Our laws also make it difficult for patients to learn about and have affordable access to nonpharmacological treatments. Insurance companies are not required to pay for alternative pain treatments like acupuncture and massage. It is illegal for people producing or selling food to say it has health benefits, even if the claims are true.
When it comes to access to one therapeutic with multiple benefits, medical marijuana, there is a significant difference between the parties, with Republicans generally opposing and Democrats generally favoring legalization. The states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana are the blue (Democratic) and swing states. Republican U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an anti-marijuana crusader who has vowed to use his office to shut down state-legal marijuana programs.
Please take all these factors into consideration and vote next Tuesday, November 6 as if your life depends on it—because it does.
Also, please sign these petitions to our elected representatives to improve affordable access to alternative pain treatments.