The ACA Is Saving My Life. Fuck the GOP and Trump for Trying to Repeal It
In a previous life, long ago, I worked for a really wonderful nonprofit research institution in Santa Monica that gave me GREAT insurance. I paid just $35 a month to cover my husband (now ex) on my insurance. I think my co-pay for doctor’s visits and prescriptions was about $10. And my insurance company never quibbled over any of my claims.
Fast forward to 2008 and my last day job. I paid a portion of my own premium every month, and was covered by Aetna, who were HORRIBLE. Every claim I made was contested by them for some bogus reason. They once denied a claim I made for treatment for an ear infection, because they called the doctor putting a cone in my ear “outpatient surgery.” I stopped going to the doctor for a while, despite having insurance, because I was tired of having to fight Aetna for every. single. claim. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend HOURS on the phone with them to get them to pay my doctor’s bills, which the doctor would put into COLLECTIONS right away when I refused to pay the full amount. It seemed that, despite having health insurance, managing my own health care took WAY too much time; was becoming extremely stressful; and having health insurance didn’t prevent me from having doctors try to ruin my credit.
In the summer of 2009, I went from shitty health insurance to NO insurance in one fell swoop. This was the height of the great recession, and the company I worked for was struggling. First, they asked for some of us to take a pay cut or work less hours to try to keep afloat. I knew then that I should get my resume in order and start sending it out. But there were NO JOBS. I think I sent out 500 resumes and got no response, which was unusual for me. I had years of web development and internet marketing experience and had never been out of work. So when I finally did get laid off, I was totally unprepared. I had just purchased a 630 foot condo in Culver City for $249k (which sounds crazy to me now that I live on the much cheaper east coast and own a 1200 square foot home that cost me HALF that amount). I had some stock that I was forced to sell at the depths of the market, and a little bit of savings, but I was basically fucked. My meager unemployment barely paid my mortgage. I went from a $65k a year job to trying to make ends meet on a pathetic $1200 check from the government a month.
As for continuing my health insurance..forget it. That wasn’t an option. Had I kept it under COBRA, it would have cost me $500/month. So I decided to risk it and go without. Fortunately, I stayed healthy during that time.
After 3 months of pounding the pavement looking for work and having no luck, I decided to join the ranks of the self-employed. I just needed to figure out what to do. I managed to find some freelance web work here and there, but it wasn’t enough to pay my bills. Then a photographer friend recommended that I do some modeling. “You’re very photogenic,” he said. I thought he was nuts. I was 42 years old and a little over 5 feet inches tall. “I’m not talking about runway modeling,” he explained. “These days, especially with the internet, there is so much opportunity. You could shoot fetish..pin-up..”
I was intrigued. And also becoming increasingly DESPERATE. I paid a photographer to shoot some photos of me and slapped them up on Model Mayhem. Before I knew it, I was doing trade shoots with experienced photographers who taught me how to pose. After several of these shoots, I started getting paid work. I was even being paid to pose nude, even at my ripe old age. It’s true — the internet really did open up the world of paid modeling to women of all types and ages. I was very fortunate that I could fall back on “my looks” (I write that somewhat sarcastically. I’ve been modeling for 8 years now and still have a somewhat conflicted relationship with my own objectification and ability to profit from my looks).
I still wasn’t making enough to afford $500/month insurance premiums, however. I managed to find a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan, meant for self-employed people like myself. I paid $200/month in premiums. That seemed affordable until I unfortunately spilled a pot of boiling water on myself making pasta and incurred an $8000 hospital bill. I then found out that BC/BS had snuck in a “co-insurance waiver” that effectively upped my deductible to $10,000. I had been insane to even been paying those premiums, when I had to pay out of pocket for everything, save some terrible cardiac arrest incident I wasn’t really at risk for, anyway. Maybe if I’d had a terrible car accident that completely debilitated me and incurred tens of THOUSANDS in hospital bills…maybe THEN, that insurance would have been worth it.
I had to get on an installment plan with the hospital and with every check I wrote to them, I kicked myself for paying those damn premiums.
Then Obama passed the ACA. It was a GODSEND. Finally, a struggling self-employed person like myself could afford health insurance, and many of the sneaky, greedy insurance company shenanigans, like putting a lifetime cap on insurance claims, was now forbidden. They also couldn’t deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions anymore. This allowed more people to become insured, which is just better for society as a whole, for SO many reasons. Prior to the ACA, for example, I would go to an Emergency Room only to find it insanely packed. Watching the nurses struggle with triage and determining which patients needed immediate care was a common sight. I knew people who couldn’t afford health insurance who would go to the ER for EVERY illness, no matter how slight, because they knew they were guaranteed care and wouldn’t necessarily have to pay the bill.
We taxpayers were absorbing those costs in higher medical bills for everyone.
I found a decent policy for the same price as my prior BC/BS insurance, but with much better terms..a small deductible and the ability to choose from many more providers. When I signed up for open enrollment right around the time of the 2016 election, I got an even BETTER plan. I pay $70/month for my premium. My deductible is ZERO, so long as I go to “tier one” providers. Many good doctors are under “tier 1”, so this hasn’t been a problem. I pay $30 copay for regular doctor visits. And thanks to the ACA, yearly mammograms are free. The ACA makes it illegal for insurance companies to charge for preventative services. Once again, this simply makes sense from a utilitarian perspective, because the more people who are engaging in preventative maintenance health-wise, the less CATASTROPHICALLY sick people will clog up services in our society and spread communicable disease to others.
The ACA is simply good for public health in so many ways.
The election, however, was potentially calamitous for those of us who rely on Obamacare. Trump appears to have no fucking clue what the ACA actually IS..he only knows it’s associated with Obama, so it has to go. The GOP Congress is catering to the desires of their wealth donors who are pissed that the ACA raises taxes on them to help pay ACA subsidies for low-income citizens. Apparently, it’s no longer cool to accept higher taxes to help those who are struggling.
I personally am tired of having to defend my ACA utilization from Trump supporters who, like their dear leader, have no clue what the ACA does, who pays subsidies (they think THEY do, even though none of them I’ve argued with make more than $250k a year), and who have been brainwashed to think those of us on Obamacare are lazy, slacker freeloaders who just want free stuff.
They also have no clue that repealing the ACA will hurt THEM as well. It’s been estimated that 50 percent or more of Americans have a “pre-existing condition” under the list of health issues that allowed insurers to deny coverage back in the pre-ACA days. Do you have allergies? Pre-existing condition. Have you ever been to a mental health expert? Pre-existing condition. Diabetes? Cancer? Heart problems? Post partum depression?…the list goes on and on.
Every repeal bill that Congress has attempted to pass screws over people with pre-existing conditions, even though the crafters of these bills have tried to deny it.
ACA repeal would also allow insurers to again impose lifetime caps.
Just listen to Jimmy Kimmel…his son was born with a congenital heart defect that qualifies under the “pre-existing condition” list. Additionally, were he not a celebrity with nearly unlimited resources, it’s likely his son would die if lifetime caps were re-instituted.
Personally, I fear for my own life if the ACA is repealed. 3 months ago I noticed a dimple on my breast. I’m being BRUTALLY honest when I say, if I hadn’t had insurance..I would have been more likely to dismiss that dimple as cellulite and roll on my merry way. But because I knew it would only cost me $30 to see my regular doctor (whom I wouldn’t even HAVE if I wasn’t insured), I decided to get it checked out, just to be safe. I also knew any mammogram they referred for me would be FREE. So it didn’t cost me much to save my own life, which is exactly how that played out. A subsequent mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy revealed I have IDC (invasive ductal carcinoma) but found early enough to be Stage 1. Which obviously has a better prognosis than if I had deferred treatment and..hypothetically speaking, months or years down the road, ended up dealing with METASTATIC STAGE 4 CANCER.
So..the ACA has already saved my life.
Now, if health insurance companies were benevolent entities that didn’t look at our health care as a massive profit-making endeavor..then perhaps I wouldn’t feel so resentful when right wingers try to portray me as the 2017 equivalent of Reagan’s “welfare queen.” I’ve been told I need to be more “self-reliant.” Let’s see..a bunch of bankers colluded with politicans to FUCK OVER THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, which resulted in the loss of my job. No one went to jail for this, and millions of Americans lost their savings and homes. Yet, we’re the ones who are the problem here? We people who were left struggling financially due to greedy corporate bastards and the whore politicians who cater to them..we’re the ones bankrupting the treasury? I don’t think so.
Sadly, this is what right wingers are being brainwashed by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to believe. Me and the countless others whose health care costs would rise by the TENS OF THOUSANDS if the ACA were repealed are just slackers wanting free stuff, apparently. Never mind that academic researchers did the math and found out the latest ACA repeal that thankfully died in the Senate would cost someone with breast cancer an additional $28,000 a year in health care costs. I’m a SLACKER who needs to be more “self-reliant” because I can’t afford for my health insurance to basically cost as much as a new car???
Meanwhile, these right wing sheep don’t even know enough about how health insurance works, or what the ACA and its repeal bills SAY. Otherwise, they’d understand that for many many years, I paid thousands upon thousands, or my employer did, in premiums as a healthy, young individual. I did my part to cover people who were sick. That’s how insurance works. It’s like a gym. Some people buy gym memberships and don’t use them, and have no problem subsidizing the people who go every day. As a young, healthy person with low utillization, I did my part to subsidize the elderly and sick insured by my company.
Now it’s MY turn.
They’re also trying to re-write history as if everything was so hunky dory “before the ACA”. My experience with BC/BS, and many others’ experiences being hit with a continual stratospheric rise in premiums and deductibles and erosion of benefits in the 20 or so years before the ACA refute that fake rosy picture. Nobody should want to go back to the “good old days” of young people being unable to afford insurance…people with pre-existing conditions being booted off their policies..and lifetime caps keeping people with catastrophic conditions from getting life-saving care.
And people who think they’re safe because their employers cover their insurance..don’t get too comfortable. Every ACA repeal has contained a provision to allow employers to stop covering their workers. Right now, any company employing more than 50 people must provide insurance. That could easily be stripped away.
People think politics isn’t important? That many of us should just shut up about these issues? Sorry. I refuse. Not when my life depends on it.
Copyright 2017 Sandra Wade