Guest Blog Post from Kristen Dama: Why We Can’t Go Back to Life Before the ACA

Kristen Dama |

Kristen Dama is an attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia. She works on human service issues. This moving story of what life was like before the ACA tells us why it is so important to save it. If you want to really help, contact Robin Stelly at and tell her you want to join a phone bank to help contact Senators who may be convinced to vote against the legislation that repeals the ACA and devastates Medicaid.

Yesterday was my turn to staff public benefits intake at CLS. It reminded me of what Friday intake was like before Medicaid expansion. Clients would come to see us because they were out of meds and couldn’t get more, because their doctors hadn’t filled the forms for disability-related Medicaid. They needed insulin or heart meds or some other drug to stay alive through the weekend.

We’d dial welfare office managers until we got a hold of one. Then we’d beg — literally, beg — them to bend the rules and open Medicaid if we promised we’d get the right paperwork in the next week. If that didn’t work, there was a pharmacist in Kensington who would give uninsured patients drugs at his cost if they were in crisis.

We’d tell our clients they’d have to use their rent money, or borrow from an elderly parent, or forgo diapers for their kids to pay for their meds. We’d coach our clients on what time to get to City health centers with dispensaries on Monday morning to get same-day appointments. We’d call our clients first thing on Monday to make sure they were still alive.

Next week, anywhere from 48 to 52 Senators are going to vote to take away our very poor, very sick clients’ Medicaid. If you haven’t called your Senators yet, please do.