My son was born 6 weeks early, and spent 17 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. After that, he spent another 90 days on supplemental oxygen at home. After all that, and multiple visits to see specialists, he is a healthy, happy baby. I am still new to parenting, but one thing I'm learning quickly is that I will never stop worrying about him until the day I die. He's only 7 months old, so I'm very aware that I have only scratched the surface of these anxieties.
Before my son had left the hospital, he had racked up almost a quarter of a million dollars in medical bills. (Fortunately my wife and I are insured through our employers, though we have spent entire days on the phone as his primary insurer tries to avoid paying his bills–that's another story.) From the moment he was born, my son had what could be considered a "pre-existing condition." Prior to March 23, 2010, that would have meant that if my wife or I (or he, later in life) ever had to purchase a healthcare plan, he could be denied coverage. Studies show that not having health insurance can lead to depression, bankruptcy, and death. I'd rather my son not have to deal with any of those.
Fortunately for him, he was born in 2016, after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This law, among other things, made it illegal for insurance carriers to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. That meant my son wouldn't be punished throughout his life simply for arriving 6 weeks early. The phrase "pre-existing condition" would not hang around him like some terrible birthmark. On the endless list of things to be worried about for my newborn son, his ability to get insurance was able to slide down somewhere above "scorpion crawls into his boot at summer camp," but below, "heart broken when his first love turns out to be a Jason Bourne-style secret agent and leaves him."
But as of today, January 12, 2017, all of that is changing. Those protections for people like my son, for people with cancer, asthma, high blood pressure, or myriad other conditions are in the process of being destroyed. Now the possibility of my son being denied healthcare because he or his parents cannot afford it is very real.
This isn't political, it's personal. There are so many things I cannot control, unknowns from which I cannot protect my son. Right now, my wife and I have insurance from our employers, and we are able to provide for our son. But the future is unseen, and it is frightening enough without having to add concern for basic healthcare for my son.