This blog is part of a series to highlight the dangers of repealing the Affordable Care Act. Multiple times a week, Community Catalyst will highlight a different constituency to draw attention to the benefits the ACA has afforded them and to outline what a loss of coverage would mean.

CCEHI Staff at Camden Coalition Conference

(From left to right: Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation (CCEHI) Deputy Director Renee Markus Hodin, Medicare Rights Center Policy & Client Services Associate Emily Balkan, CCEHI Consumer Engagement Advisor Rosa Palacios and Ms. Lezrette Hutchinson)

Last month, my colleagues and I presented at Putting Care at the Center, the first conference hosted by the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs. The conference sought to explore the science of care for individuals with complex needs, examine best practices in care, discuss using innovative funding as a lever for system change and present a vision for the future of care.

I was honored to learn from consumers such as Ms. Lezrette Hutchinson, a woman with chronic illness who is dedicated to fixing the health care system and empowering other consumers to do the same, as well as innovative organizations such as the Camden Coalition, Southcentral Foundation, Commonwealth Care Alliance, Cherokee Health System and Health Leads. The conference allowed all of us in attendance to hear the stories behind the statistics and the realities of growing up in places where only a couple of your childhood friends will still be alive by the time you turn 65.

Overall, the conference did an excellent job elevating the importance of improving care for people with complex care needs and how that care has already been improved by the coverage and gains made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the expansion of Medicaid (studies have shown the majority of this population have one or more chronic condition such as stroke, asthma or diabetes), the prohibition on denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions and the creation of better coordinated models of care in Medicaid and Medicare.

These protections, coupled with the recent release of The Playbook: Better Care for People with Complex Needs, has put us in a better place than ever to partner with individuals and communities with complex needs and make a real difference in their health and lives.

That is why Republican threats to repeal the ACA should be worrisome to consumers with complex needs and to their providers, caregivers, advocates and collaborators.

Well before the ACA, I remember how my uninsured patients would come to the hospital for severe asthma attacks or out of control diabetes, conditions which could have been avoided if they could have gotten the preventive care and prescription medications they needed. And I remember discharging these patients, with three days’ worth of medications and no follow-up care, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be long before they were back, with their disease even worse than it was before. Before the coverage and services provided by ACA, this was the best providers serving these populations were able to do.

This is why those of us who work with consumers with complex health and social needs should step up now to fight the repeal of the Affordable Care Act this January. For people with complex health needs who are among the 30 million people at risk of losing coverage, access to routine care, much less to the types of innovative care showcased at the conference, will evaporate.

This repeal vote will have real impact on real people, and people with complex care needs are at greatest risk. With all of the progress that we’ve made in improving care for people with complex care needs, this is not a time to turn back the clock. We must work together to ensure access to the life-saving services that Medicaid provides under the ACA and continue the innovations that hold the promise of better care and better health, particularly for those with the greatest need.