Your Turn: Living with Obamacare
by KARIN KAMP –
For some the Affordable Care Act is hardly affordable, but for many it’s a lifesaver.
Within hours of his inauguration, President Donald Trump made good on his promise to start repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), signing an executive order, his first, that targets the law.
Trump’s directive gives federal agencies “authority to grant waivers, exemptions and delays of provisions in the Affordable Care Act,” according to the Associated Press. For now, it’s not clear how it will impact Americans and their health insurance.
Trump has promised to make repealing and replacing the ACA a top priority for his first 100 days in office, claiming that “Obamacare has been a catastrophic event.”
At least 18 million people who have insurance today would lose their coverage within one year, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, if Republicans move forward with their plan to repeal major parts of Obamacare without a replacement. That number would grow to 32 million people over 10 years if congressional Republicans follow a 2015 plan to repeal the ACA without an alternative, the CBO report says.
Ahead of Trump’s swearing in, we asked our audience who have the ACA to share their personal experiences with it.
Over 500 people responded, with some clear themes emerging. In general, people say they are very grateful to have health insurance through the ACA, and many responded that it either saved their lives or the lives of a loved one. It also appears to have brought peace of mind, in many cases to those with pre-existing conditions, as well as to small business owners and those who are self-employed, who would otherwise lack health insurance. All of this could contribute to why Obamacare is more popular right now than Trump, according to a new Fox News poll. Still, the ACA is far from perfect, and a key complaint is cost. Below are some lightly edited, personal experiences that our readers shared with us.
Saved my life
“It literally saved my life by paying for Hep C treatment, without which I’d be a few years from death right now. Instead, I am a working, tax-paying citizen.”
— Amy Wolf
“Obamacare has saved my life. When I had my heart attack last year, it would have bankrupted me and there is no way I could have been able to keep up with the prescriptions. I have great insurance and luckily I was eligible for a subsidy.”
Saved my son’s life
“Within weeks of the ACA, it literally saved my uninsured though employed young adult son’s life. He was misdiagnosed several times at emergency rooms and once we were able to get him on my husbands employer/union insurance he went back to ER, was admitted and ended up having to have a biopsy of his lungs. He had a hole in his lung the size of a large man’s fist. It took many months and medications for him to recover and he is now left with a pre-existing condition, but thankfully not buried in a mountain of debt at the age of 20.”
Insurance couldn’t drop me, but they wanted to
“At age 31 I was diagnosed with cancer. I had just had a baby. After just two of 12 chemo treatments, and five of 105 supportive blood treatments to keep the chemo from killing me, I received a letter from my insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, informing me that I had reached my max coverage and that they would no longer pay for treatments. My husband was horribly stressed financially and fearing I wouldn’t live through the treatments, when he happened to have the radio on when President Obama made the ACA announcement. I made it through my treatments, and the ACA protected us from being dropped by our insurance. I am eternally grateful as the ACA allowed us to make it through that difficult time with a lot less medical debt. I am now a Ph.D. student studying cancer and hope to contribute to fighting the disease.”
No pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps
“My family has greatly benefited from the no pre-existing conditions denials and no lifetime caps. My son has hemophilia and the medication he needs to remain a working contributing member of society is cost prohibitive without good insurance. In the past, families would reach lifetime caps within a few years. Some had to stop working and receive assistance from the state in order to receive health care for their children.”
“Because of the ACA, my two daughters and myself are insured after years of rolling the dice that we stay healthy and injury free. I am a single mom and I work 50 to 60 hours a week at several jobs. But, life is expensive and I needed help. I got it! And, when I got it, I cried tears of joy.”
A saving grace
“I’ve been out of work for two years. Insurance via normal carriers is unaffordable, but I got on Medicaid via the ACA, which has been a saving grace for me since it allows me to not worry about this while looking after a sick family member full time.”
Eased emotional and financial stress
“My husband and I are both self-employed. He is a small business owner. Our youngest child has a serious, progressive, debilitating physical disability and the cost of her care is immense. Over the past three years, the ACA has provided us with a deep sense of relief. As our emotional and financial stress decreases, my husband and I can be more present for our kids, and now we have the space in which to tend to higher needs like their academics. It truly has been a lifesaver. We receive a subsidy. A repeal would throw us back to where we were three years ago — when health care-related costs consumed more than 75 percent of our monthly income.”
I feel protected
“While the deductible is high, I still feel protected from catastrophe. I got a subsidy as I’m self-employed and single. I had been without health care for three years following my divorce so just getting covered for preventative check-ups and screenings made me feel like a whole person, unafraid and included. I didn’t feel I had to live my life in fear of a disaster. It will be a terrible loss to not have it.”
Allowed us to grow business
“Contrary to the notion that Obamacare kills jobs, it has helped our family build our small business. We started with one employee and have grown to eight over four years. If I would have paid the COBRA insurance from my previous job, the cost would have been around $2,500 per month, equal to our mortgage, and we wouldn’t have been able to invest the time and resources into growing our business. With the ACA, based on our income, we were able to get quality care for around $600 per month. Now, as we make more, we’ll pay more for insurance, but the ACA gave us a chance to do something for ourselves.”
Premiums are high, so is executive pay
“My husband and I have health insurance under the ACA and we pay $1,800 a month. Yep, you heard that right — $1,800 a month. I have pre-existing health issues and am terrified that the Republicans will screw up insurance for me and others with pre-existing conditions. I applaud Obama for putting in place insurance for people like me and I don’t blame him one bit for the extraordinarily high premium we have to pay. I blame greedy insurance executives. The same executives who get millions in annual bonuses while we pay huge premiums.”
System makes no sense
“I had insurance through the ACA for two years but lost it this year. My husband and I make too much for Medicaid and not enough for a subsidy. It makes no sense to me how you have to have a certain income to get help. So we no longer have insurance because we can’t afford it.”
“The ACA has made insurance premiums cost more than 14 percent of my income. It should have been a nationalized plan with caps on premiums as a portion of income. I have been uninsured since its inception due to the fact it would cost $1,900 per month for my wife and I (both healthy) to have a plan with $7,000 deductible. The broke system isn’t fixed yet.”
“It was wonderful and affordable in the first year when I signed up, with low premiums and deductibles. The second year became tough, with double the deductible, and a 30 percent increase in monthly premium costs. In the third year, it became simply unaffordable. I’d like to have the first year’s deal back please! The system needs more income-based, tiered, sliding-scale pricing options. I think the federal government should put more money into subsidizing it.”
“So I pay for your coverage or get fined? The fine doesn’t help me either. It punished me and gave my fine to the system to help provide health care for someone else. I’m punished for having a job and not being able to afford $12,000 a year and a $5,000 deductible. Ridiculous!”
Scared to death
“I’m self-employed and couldn’t buy insurance for years due to pre-existing conditions. Thanks to Obamacare I now have good affordable health care coverage. I’m scared to death of losing it… Without health insurance I risk losing my savings, my home, my business, even my life should I get sick or injured. I’m facing three surgeries this year. I don’t know what I’ll do if I Iose my coverage.”
We all won
“Just about everyone has benefited from the ACA, not just those who purchased a plan on the marketplace or who have Medicaid expansion. The ACA established minimum standards for all policies, including mental health coverage, which individual plans typically did not cover before ACA.”
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Reprinted with permission from Bill Moyers.com