When I was 33 years old, I divorced my husband and enrolled in graduate school. Two acts of emotional courage of which I will always be proud. However, acts of courage are not always fiscally sound– I may have gained a new lease on life, but I lost my healthcare. In other words, I got the living room set; he got Blue Cross Blue Shield. Naively, I reapplied to Blue Cross Blue Shield and to my surprise I was rejected.
It was a new world for me. No little card to present at the doctor’s office. No answer when they asked, “Who is your carrier?” Standing there at the receptionist’s desk, I felt more than vulnerable–I felt poor and stupid. But I was young enough to think that I would just never really need health insurance. Then, one day while biking home from classes at Boston University, I hit a pothole on the BU Bridge and was pitched over the handlebars. I landed on my arm which immediately began to hurt and swell.
Yet, even then, I thought it would all work out. I went to Beth Israel Hospital (where I had a part-time job) because I knew they had a free care clinic. I filled out all the paperwork and waited–my arm throbbing and a knob forming on the inside of my wrist. The doctor who saw me looked at my arm and told me it would feel better soon and that the lump would go away. I asked for an x-ray. She shook her head. “An MRI?” Without response, she began to sign my paperwork. And I was back out on the sidewalk. No tests, no meds, no conversation. I don’t blame the doctor—my guess is that most doctors hate the restrictions put on them by insurance companies and hospitals. That was when I learned to use an ice pack and stay home.
I was without health insurance for two more years. The anxiety of potential medical disaster and the constant stress of trying to pay for everything from prescriptions to pap smears, made my life less than fun. But being healthy and relatively young, I made it. It wasn’t easy and it could have wiped me out financially had I experienced a true medical crisis such as a broken leg or a chronic illness. Like most experiences in life, I did take away something positive—an awareness of the stress and sometimes downright terror of not having health insurance. I also really, really appreciate the little card that I now carry in my wallet.
Consequently, I am astounded at the uproar over the Affordable Care Act (well, uproaring conservatives shouldn’t astound anyone at this point). I wonder if any of the ACA opponents have ever been without health insurance? Have any of the opponents known the humility of going to the ER simply because you heard they are not allowed to turn you away (actually, untrue. They can turn you away)? And why do we consistently vote-in lawmakers so entirely removed from the actual experience of the American public?
Here are some benefits of ACA: (these facts are shamelessly stolen from this site. Go there and learn even more)
- Insurance companies can’t deny health coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions.
- Adults who have been uninsured for at least 6 months and have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition may now get coverage.
- Insurance companies can’t place dollar limits on the health care they cover in your lifetime.
- Those in the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole” get a 50 percent discount on name-brand prescription drugs and a 7 percent discount on generic prescription drugs.
- Those in Medicare can get preventive services and screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, at no cost to them.
- New health plans must offer preventive and screening services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, at no cost to the patient.
In the future:
- Insurance companies won’t be able to deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.
- Health insurance will cover essential health benefits and coverage will be guaranteed for nearly all Americans.
- Americans without health insurance will be able to buy it through state-based marketplaces called exchanges.
- More Americans will have access to health coverage through Medicaid.
So my question remains: Affordable Care Act. What’s not to love?