by: Maggie Amjad

This is the final post for my Service Learning Capstone project on Healthcare in the US. Throughout the Spring, I have explored Healthcare in the US. This fina installment will cover what I learned and how I think the country should move forward as Healthcare shifts. Thank you for following along!

My first experiences with healthcare were with those who did not have it. I began volunteering at Medworks, a Cleveland based non-profit focused on serving the medically unserved. While registering patients, I found myself connecting with them in unexpected ways. I listened to their stories and enjoyed the wisdom they shared. One man talked about the 4th anniversary of his sobriety after battling a cocaine addiction. He was so proud and happy to share, and I was inspired by his story. I later worked with a deaf couple. I was once again inspired by their determination to receive the medical care they needed and the way they worked together to communicate with me. While many other volunteer activities have cemented my love for service, this was one of the first interactions that really pushed me to join the Center for Civic Engagement.

It is incredibly fitting that I chose to work with healthcare for my capstone project as it really was where my service learning journey began. Over the past year I have been able to educate myself, and hopefully others, on the incredibly complicated issue of healthcare in the United States. This was especially important to me because of lack of knowledge I felt like I previously had on the topic and the reality that I will not always have two parents to handle it for me. I’m sure most HB girls feel the same and the constant dialogue in our country over healthcare only increases the universal confusion.

I began by researching the history of healthcare in the United States. One of the first things I noticed was the lack of consistency our country has had. Since the early 1900s and the beginning of organized medicine, there has been a desire and fight for some form of government healthcare. This was largely ungranted and ignored until Social Security was established in the 1930s, though was a small concession as it really only aided the elderly. Within the next ten years, Truman would suggest a universal healthcare plan only to be shot down on the grounds it was communist. This developed another strong theme in the american healthcare story: fear of socialism and communism present in the form of universal healthcare. There is a constant battle between privatized and public government insurance. And while a large part of the American identity is individualism and taking care of yourself, countries with universal healthcare often function better medically for example Australia and the UK. Today, the United States faces these same issues making it hard for citizens to receive the consistent affordable care they deserve and making it hard for legislators to construct a program that helps all without threatening any democratic values of the country.

My next steps included researching the large healthcare changes I have witnessed. The Affordable Care Act, instituted during the Obama Presidency, marked a shift towards more governmental/public coverage offered to citizens. The legislation expanded Medicare and Medicaid in addition to the amount of families receiving other forms of welfare. While the plan was not perfect, it helped thousands of people receive the care they needed at an affordable price and improved the living standards of many. The largest criticisms to this plan was backlash from upper classes regarding a $10 billion increase in taxes paid and a large step for the United States towards socialized medicine. Unfortunately, the stigma around socialized or universal healthcare is still very much present in the US. As a result, since Obama has left office, Trump has made multiple attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. This was my next task. I wanted to fully understand the pivotal changes Donald Trump and the republican party have proposed.

Research on this topic was one of the harder parts of my project. There was much less information on the new bills mostly because there have been so many that have failed. Between all the attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, there is little clear information on what changes have actually been implemented. I found this lack of transparency to be one of the largest problems with Health Care policy. The general public does not have an easy, unbiased way to learn about the already confusing topic of Health Care. My research lead to the American Health Care plan, the piece of legislation that came closest to replacing the Affordable Care Act. The largest changes it would bring is removing the requirement of health insurance and further privatizing the field. While this has its advantages especially in making insurance rates more competitive, it also reduces the funds put towards Medicare and Medicaid. This means many will no longer have access to health care and insurance which is incredibly problematic for many. Though, none of these attempts have been successful, I think that eventually some form of Republican health care legislation will pass. The inevitability of this means the health care industry is facing many changes. To connect my project to Cleveland specifically, I contacted different health care professionals to understand how these changes could impact Cleveland.

This was my favorite part of the project. I loved connecting with people truly making a difference in Cleveland that are so passionate about their work. I learned about the far reaching impacts of Planned Parenthood from HB Class of 2018’s very own Ellie Feldermann. She shared with me the detrimental effects that pulling funding would have on healthcare specifically the reduced access to medical care for women. This problem will only escalate if the Affordable Care Act is repealed because more people will need free medical care once they are no longer covered under the prior policies. In my opinion, I think the defunding of Planned Parenthood is a massive mistake and it will only hurt the Americans that need help the most. I also was in contact with Susan Mego of Metrohealth who spoke to me about the evolution of health care in the US. Changes happening right now can take years to have an impact making the field unstable. It also owes its lack of stability to the polarizing political debate that surrounds health care in the US. This also complicates socialized medicine as the Republican party often opposes such measures. From my conversations with Susan, it became very apparent that the US needs a bipartisan effort if anything in the field is going to change.

The last person I reached out to was Lauren Barbour of Medworks. She shared with me her own uncertainties about where health care will go next. Though, the one thing she was positive about was that Medworks will continue their mission of providing free medical care to those in need of it. This gave me a lot of reassurance about the coming changes in health care. Lauren and Medworks represent a faction that despite changes in legislation, will continue to help anyone in any way possible, and I think that is exactly what our country and the health care industry needs.

While tuning into the healthcare dialogue in our country isn’t always the most pleasant use of time, it is important to know the changes that the industry is facing. The industry is constantly evolving bringing good and bad changes to the policies that dictate our access to medicine and proper care. Working on this project was eye opening in many ways. It showed me how turbulent government policy can be and the process it takes to create a bill two groups can unite over. It also taught me that the legislation produced in government truly does directly impact citizens and that the power wielded by government officials is very real and far reaching. Finally, I learned that while knowing about the health care turmoil isn’t always fun, there is reason to have hope that people will continue to receive the care they need despite changes in legislation.