As an infectious disease and addiction medicine physician, I am concerned about the anticipated changes to our health care system under consideration by Congress, which would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a bill crafted by the ACA’s opponents.

In my clinical experience, I have seen the difficulties faced by patients who lack access to health care. Patients without health insurance have often been forced to seek non-urgent, costly care in the hospital Emergency Department.

I’ve also seen patients require amputations because of diabetic foot infections, suffer from HIV/AIDS complications and undergo heart surgery because of infectious complications from injection drug use and untreated substance use disorders – all because they lacked basic access to health care.

Research has shown that health insurance saves lives. The ACA has provided tangible benefits to patients in my clinical setting. Because they were not denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition, for example, I have seen patients with hepatitis C finally undergo treatment – and be cured of this infection, which, if left untreated, can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death.

As a physician, I believe that health care is a fundamental human right, not a privilege. We must do all that we can to protect the health of the most marginalized and vulnerable members of our society. I urge our representatives to take into account the positive changes brought about by the ACA as lawmakers in Washington move to replace it with a proposal that will only revoke all of these positive, lifesaving changes.

Dr. Kinna Thakarar

Cape Elizabeth