As we near the final conclusion of one of the most secretive, haphazard, and controversial legislative processes that I've been privy to in my entire life, I wanted to take a step back and use this space as a place for me to explain how one of the most significant and all-encompassing legislative passages of the last 10 years has changed my life. What follows is a personal story. I don't necessarily view it as an attempt to convince (I call my legislators for that), but given the teetering existence of such an influential piece of legislation, I would like to share how, in many ways, Obamacare is one reason I am here today.
By all measurements I was a healthy kid growing up. No broken bones or sprains even though I played sports, perfect blood pressure, not even any allergies to talk about. While I didn't know it at the time, however, my parents were paying 10k a year for our family of 4 to have health insurance, something they came perilously close to dropping until a good friend told them that to do so would be madness.
But in May of 2008, at age 19, after I had moved out, I ended up in the ER and then, for a week, a hospital for the mentally ill. The last thing on my mind at the time was money. In fact, I can't even recall for one second thinking of anything related to money or cost, considering that I was a mere 12 inches from death.
About three weeks after my release, I stumbled upon a pile of bills that my parents had tucked away in a shelf in their living room. They were the bills for my hospitalization. They were almost 15 thousand dollars. The sinking feeling in my stomach at the time was eminently real. I knew that my parents could afford it; 60-70 hour work weeks when I was young managed to help them to a place of middle-upper class comfort by this time in our lives, but I was stunningly aghast at how that meant that, for most people, it would be unaffordable.
A month later, my mother and I sat down with an insurance salesperson (this was before Obamacare and marketplaces and all that) and started hashing out getting health insurance for me in case something happened, God forbid. For reference, I lived and still do in Michigan. Everything was going fine, we had narrowed in on a reasonable plan with coverage I needed, when the salesperson started asking me some questions. One of the questions was if I had been hospitalized for mental illness recently. Seeing as how I had, I replied yes.
I was then informed that nobody would cover me until it had been more than 6 months since I had been hospitalized. I walked away that day without insurance.
I shudder to think, looking back, what would have happened if I had to be hospitalized again before the 6 month period was over. My parents may have been comfortable but they were not made of money, and I was right out of my freshman year of college and its concurrent debt.
I am 28 now. I work a boring job and earn about 21-22k pre-tax. Thanks to Obamacare, I pay a still ridiculous but at least manageable $105 dollars a month to make sure my 4 prescriptions and regular doctor's appointments do not completely drain me. I own a house, and between that and the subsidies that allow me to afford my own health expenses, I am happy at the independence that is afforded me. Being that I have no college degree, the reality is I probably will never make a ton of money. I have a safety net in my parents, but if certain pre-existing condition protections are waived, and the number of plans that cover what I need drastically decrease in amount and increase in price, I, at almost 30 years old, will probably be forced to ask my parents to help me pay for my own health.
I am not pretending that Obamacare is perfect. But I truly can not exist without it, unless my parents would foot the bill, and honestly, I can barely imagine asking them for help at my age without feeling incredibly embarrassed. I've been working since I was 16 and I feel like I should at least be afforded a chance, by my own country, to have individual control and stability over my own health care, and to manage a disease I have no control over and did not choose to be born with.
If you are as worried as I am about the future of your wellbeing, or the wellbeing of your countrymen, I beg of you to call your legislator. Thank you.