The nation is embroiled in the debate over the Affordable Care Act. The
Congressional Budget Office estimates that the GOP health bill could put 24 million Americans at risk of losing insurance. That has many local patients and doctors worried. Because of the ACA, more people were able to get health insurance and even access to life-saving treatments. One Reno woman shares her story with our reporter Anh Gray.
I meet Angela Siegfried at the Community Health Alliance Center For Complex Care on Wells Avenue in Reno. It’s where she goes for health care. Siegfried has big, brown eyes and is full of optimism. That’s despite having to get around with the aid of an oxygen tank due to complications from Type 2 diabetes. These days Siegfried says she’s grateful to have the oxygen. Before the Affordable Care Act, she was uninsured.
“I would just get really sick and end up in the hospitals, emergencies,” Siegfried explains, “they’d keep me, get me a little bit well and send me on my way.”
Siegfried says she was a loan officer but became too ill to work and eventually lost her insurance. Now she’s receiving treatment at the community health center, which primarily serves low-income people.
“I’m an out-of-control diabetic; I’m on insulin five times a day, pills,” Siegfried says. “I’m on oxygen COP; I’m ready to get a surgery that’s called the sleeve so that my health will even be better. I won’t be diabetic no more; I won’t need oxygen.”
Siegfried says her quality of life improved dramatically.
“So, as long as I have my oxygen, I go with my grandkids. I have three grandkids—six, seven, and eight—little boys and they go to the park all the time and they won’t go without me,” Siegfried says about spending time with her grandsons. “I get to go to soccer games; I get to go to church all the time. I’m not just bedridden.”
Oscar Delgado is a spokesman for Community Health Alliance where Siegfried receives her care. He also happens to be a City of Reno councilman.
“Preventative care is all about getting ahead of it, right? Trying to make sure the person is taken care of and their health care needs are taken care of now or on the forefront,” Delgado says.
In light of the current House Republican proposal to change the Affordable Care Act, Delgado says he’s concerned that some residents could lose access to care and what effect it would have on the community.
“The ACA touches everything that we do here in the community one way or another,” Delgado explains. “In terms of, if people’s health care isn’t taken care of, and they feel that they can’t be taken of, the governments, the local governments starts to find a way of how they can provide a service.”
Delgado says when people lack preventive care, problems persist. This could then trickle down to other areas like increasing the use of emergency care at hospitals, ambulatory care like REMSA, and even to other support services like the fire department.
Chuck Duarte, the CEO of Community Health Alliance, says he’s worried that changes to the ACA would be a setback.
“If it goes away, the chances are that those uncompensated costs are going to increase,” Duarte points out, “which means that those costs will shift to employer-covered commercial insurance and their premiums will increase. It will affect everybody.”
Duarte recalls a less-than-ideal health care environment prior to the ACA.
“It’s terrifying for a lot of families to have to face the fact that they may again be uninsured and have to face very large medical bills or not be able to pay for coverage,” Duarte says.
Before Obamacare, almost a quarter of Nevadans were uninsured—the second highest rate in the nation. Now we’re at about 11 percent.
For patients like Angela Siegfried, the possibility of losing coverage puts her on edge.
“I don’t ever want to be in this life without insurance. People who don’t have insurance, I know what it feels like and it’s really sad because when you’re sick and you can’t go to the doctors and you can’t get medications,” Siegfried explains. “What’s going to happen? The only thing, you’re going to end up dying, and you probably could have prevented it. Yeah, I’m a little nervous about it.”
Helping Angela Siegfried get to her medical appointments is her daughter Nadine.
“Back when we were without her having insurance, well, I almost lost her several times going into a diabetic coma. It became very serious. And me being an only child, I would have lost my mom, and I would have felt like I’m in this world alone.”
Siegfried plans to get healthy for her family. Nadine helps wheel her mom’s oxygen tank toward the medical front desk. Siegfried is eager to get her next medical appointment on the books.