I know that the Accountable Care Act – known by most as Obamacare – isn’t perfect. But with all the uncertainty that now surrounds the act, I wanted to share my story about what Obamacare meant for me.
When I got sick, I was on a group health plan through my partner’s work. My condition required me, at first, to see my rheumatologist monthly. Even with a group health plan, it was $60/visit for the copay alone. Tack on the necessary X-rays, MRIs, lab testing, prescription medications, and I was spending hundreds of dollars a month just to keep myself out of the hospital.
Our financial situation was such that I needed to work. I wanted to work. But working a traditional 40-hour workweek wasn’t feasible. I was too sick.
So I started my own business. And my business quickly became successful—in spite of my illness. I loved writing, and I could literally write from my bed if necessary to meet client deadlines. Some days were tougher than others, but I was contributing to our family while doing the best I could to feel better.
Then my partner’s situation changed. And we were without health insurance. We stayed on COBRA for as long as we could. Then we faced the task of purchasing individual health insurance in a pre-Obamacare world.
I imagine the underwriters receiving our application laughing their assess off as they marked our application with a big red DENIED.
Because of pre-existing conditions, we couldn’t get coverage. My three-person family was without health insurance until Obamacare made coverage open for everyone.
A lot of people argue that letting everyone into the insurance pool is the reason that costs have gone up. Which of course has merit. But without basic coverage, sick people like me didn’t have access to the preventive measures that make up the bulk of caring for people with chronic illness. Without seeing my doctor regularly and coverage for my prescriptions, what might have happened?
I’ll tell you one thing: I could have gotten sick. Really sick. The kind of sick that requires a late night visit to the emergency room. The kind of visit that causes people like me—people who work, who are contributing to this economy—to deplete savings, to overextend credit, to declare bankruptcy.
The ACA gave us coverage we couldn’t have had. The coverage alone was costly, but it limited the amount of debt we could have possibly gone into had we required hospitalization. And it allowed us to budget for preventive care, which helped us to stay relatively healthy.
I hope more is done to address the cost of care in our country. But I hope everyone thinks long and hard about what it will mean to take health insurance away from the 20 million folks who have the insurance they need to at least attempt to be responsible stewards of their own health care.