By Janet Mason, cross-posted from On The Issues Magazine.

A hand in bandages with an IV on a hospital bed.

Photo: José Goulão / Flickr

As the Affordable Care Act worked its way through the courts in the past three years, I began to reflect on how it might have affected my own life and that of my mother, who died of cancer in 1994. The Supreme Court is reportedly due to issue its ruling on the constitutionality of the health care insurance reform (“Obamacare” to some) on June 28, 2012.I don’t know what the justices will decide, but I do know that people like me and my mother need a health care system we can believe in — something better than what is in place.

The medical system is mostly a profit-making structure that overlooks the most vulnerable sectors of our society — especially older women.

I was a witness to this when my mother was dying from fourth-stage cancer that had metastasized to her bones. She initially became aware of the cancer when she woke up with a crushing pain in her sternum. Her doctor at a health maintenance organization (HMO) diagnosed her with arthritis and suggested she take extra strength Tylenol. He refused to give a referral to a specialist.

It’s often said that women become invisible after the age of 45. We also become invisible to the medical system. Older women are more likely to have complicated medical issues and are more likely to be low-income, having spent fewer years in the workforce because of raising children and caretaking elderly parents.

While there is much confusion over healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offered relief – some already in effect that helps the elderly population. As of January 2011, Medicare provides no-cost screenings for cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases. At the same time, the Affordable Care Act established a new Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation that tests better ways of delivering care to patients.

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