As the political standoff over the Affordable Care Act keeps the federal government shut down for a fourth day, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine are urging the nation’s physicians to “lead by example” and “make your views known to your representatives in Congress.”
In an editorial published online Friday, Drs. Jeffrey M. Drazen and Gregory D. Curfman write that the journal – the oldest and arguably most prestigious medical publication in the country – has no official stance on the merits of the law that has come to be known as Obamacare. But as physicians who treat patients in Massachusetts, they write that their personal experience with a similar law has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Before reform in Massachusetts, we saw too many patients who were devastated by a freak accident or an unexpected diagnosis of cancer; we saved bodies and bankrupted lives,” they wrote. “Now, when fate strikes a cruel blow to citizens of Massachusetts, we can fix their bodies and preserve their lives.”
The Massachusetts law went into effect in 2006 and requires pretty much every state resident to have at least a baseline amount of health insurance coverage. Residents whose incomes put them below 150% of the poverty line can get their premiums paid for by the state.
The Massachusetts law, sometimes referred to as Romneycare, became the basis for the Affordable Care Act. (If you’re still confused about how it works, check out this video by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who served as an advisor to both Romney and Obama.)
Drs. Drazen and Curfman praise the Massachusetts law for erasing the fear that an illness or injury will cause financial harm as well. “All of us will need medical attention at some point in our lives,” they wrote. “When that point comes, we should not have to worry about whether we can pay for it.”
Their bottom line: “To us, supporting the ACA makes moral and medical sense.”
But even if doctors don’t agree, they should still get in touch with their representatives in Congress, they wrote: "Your voice will become part of the wave that eventually spurs the House of Representatives to act.”
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