Pearl Jam's Mike McCready Calls for Support of Obamacare

The guitarist was twice denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says he hopes voters will support Obama and his healthcare reform law. (Photo: J ason Merritt/Getty Images)

Shari Roan is an award-winning health writer based in Southern California.

Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready is throwing his support behind Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act. McCready released a video appeal and a petition this week to garner enthusiasm for Obamacare in the waning days of the 2012 election.

McCready has Crohn's disease, which is a chronic inflammation of the intestines that can result in abdominal pain, diarrhea and malnutrition. Despite his fame and fortune, however, he said he has twice been denied health insurance coverage because of his pre-existing condition. Under the Affordable Care Act -- dubbed Obamacare -- insurers are prohibited from turning down consumers with pre-existing conditions who apply for coverage.

The provision, which begins on Jan. 1, 2014, also bars insurers from charging significantly higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, to subject  such applicants to extended waiting periods or to curtail their benefits.

The pre-existing condition provision is a central plank of Obamacare and will mean that between 50 and 129 million Americans  will qualify for insurance coverage, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Up to one in five non-elderly Americans has a pre-existing condition.

MORE: Healthcare Act: Voices of the Uninsured

"It's very hard to have Crohn's and go on the road," McCready said in a statement posted on YouTube. "There are times when I've had to run off stage while we're playing a show or right before we're playing a show.  But it's equally as hard to have [Crohn's] and have to drive to a nine-to-five job or to be a kid in school."

While the rock star has resources to get the healthcare he needs, many other people with pre-existing conditions don't, he said.

"I've met a lot of people who have been denied coverage and don't have the resources to fight insurance companies. And they shouldn't have to do that," he said. "We're about to have healthcare for everyone. I have a pre-existing condition, and I feel like I have some hope."

In a presidential election as close as this one, McCready's message may give voters something else to ponder before going to the polls, Mitchell Stein, policy director for Consumers for Affordable Health Care, told Take Part.

MORE: If the Affordable Care Act is Overturned, Women Lose

"A personal story brings home to everyone in the public how these issues matter," Stein says. "It's one thing to see statistics that say so many million people suffer from this or suffer from that. But to hear how people are impacted makes a tremendous difference."

McCready's message may also elevate the issue of healthcare reform in a campaign season that has been dominated by economic issues and the tumult in the Middle East. While some provisions of the Affordable Care Act have been implemented -- such as allowing children to remain on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26 -- others will go into effect later.

Consumers may not fully understand what the law does, Stein says, something McCready's message may help address.

"When people are asked about specific items in the Affordable Care Act, overwhelmingly, people think these provisions are positive," he says. "But when they are given the label of the Affordable Care Act, people are more on the fence. To me, that says people don't yet have a real understanding of what's in the act. It's all to the good when people get a better sense of what's really involved."

MORE: Confused About Healthcare Reform? A New Guide Helps You Make Sense of It

McCready also released a letter with his friend, filmmaker Jesse Dylan, which said, in part:

"Business isn’t a bad thing. But the business of health insurance hasn’t been a good thing in America. Not for anyone with a chronic illness, or with a spouse who got sick and lost their job, or for a gravely ill child and his or her parents. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) recognized these shortcomings and rectified them. ObamaCare does for health care what business could not or would not; it prohibits discrimination against those of us with pre-existing conditions. It ensures everyone, regardless of their employment status or health care situation, access to quality insurance and medical care. Everyone. Period." 

Gov. Mitt Romney has said he will work to dismantle Obamacare if elected president. He and his campaign staff have floated muddled messages regarding his views on a pre-existing condition clause to his healthcare plan.

"All [Romney's] plan does is cover people with pre-existing conditions who are currently covered and allows them to continue coverage if they shift plans," Stein says. "The real concern is people who don't have insurance and can't get it."

MORE: Americans Struggling to Pay for Prescription Drugs

McCready says he doesn't want voters to take any chances on electing officials who will vote to overturn Obamacare. He also launched a petition asking people to vow to vote for candidates who support the Affordable Care Act. The petition is on SignOn.org, 

"Some candidates say they want to repeal ObamaCare but would still protect folks with pre-existing conditions," he wrote. "Don't count on it. We had to fight for years to get these protections. If they go away now, it will be virtually impossible to get them back."

Question: Will you vote only for candidates who expressly support the Affordable Care Act? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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