How the Affordable Care Act has Affected Lives

The following was written in response to a Republican politician’s request for stories about how the Affordable Care Act has affected constituents. He was hoping for horror stories, but many people are depending on the ACA for life-prolonging treatment. Her story is here:

In December 2015, our adult daughter began to have debilitating headaches. Then one morning she woke up and couldn’t focus her eyes. She saw her optometrist who sent her to an ophthalmologist who sent her to a neurological ophthalmologist. But it was the end of the year, and her insurance plan was discontinued, and she had to switch plans and start over with all new doctors. I’ll make a long story short. It took 10 months and too many tests and doctors to count for her to be diagnosed with pseudo tumor cerebri, a neurological condition that is characterized by increased intracranial pressure. The pressure was so great that it increased the pressure on her optic nerves and optic disks causing her eyes to cross. She was forced to wear prism lenses over her glasses to avoid seeing double.

After a while, even those weren’t sufficient for her to see well. With treatment, the pressure was reduced, but her eye muscles were damaged, and last December she had extensive eye surgery to straighten her eyes. They are still well aligned (thank God), but the pressure in her optic nerves and her right optic disk have begun to rise again. She is scheduled to have more tests to try to determine if she can have some stents placed to keep the pressure down. She is on some very strong drugs that have significant side effects, but she is managing. She also is facing having regular lumbar punctures or having a permanent shunt placed to keep the volume of cerebrospinal fluid down.

Our daughter works in a skilled professional position but is hired on a contract basis and has no benefits. She was only able to get health insurance through the ACA marketplace. If she hadn’t had that insurance, she would probably either be blind or dead by now. Even if we had sold our home and cashed out our retirement, we probably could not have paid for more than 1 to 2 years of her medical expenses. Is the system perfect? No! But it saved my child’s life. I’m sure that there are many similar stories. So, obviously, I am a supporter of the ACA. Its repeal would have devastating results for so many people.

Personally, I believe that the problem lies with giving too much power to the private insurance companies. Maybe that’s a political judgement; I’m not sure. What I know is that the CEO of our insurance company, Aetna, makes over $40,000,000 each year. I cannot begin to image how that is merited.

I suspect that you are a supporter of the state high risk insurance pool. Here is a link to an article that reviews those pools, and the results are disturbing.

I ask that you read it with an open mind. I know that there are problems with the ACA, but I also know that the ACA has ensured coverage for millions of people who would otherwise have NO care at all. PLEASE, do not repeal this life-giving law.


What Obamacare has done for me

When I first met my wife in 2007, she told me she was about to quit her job of 27 years in the oil and gas industry to pursue a career in family therapy. Quitting her job meant giving up her employer-provided insurance, so she went on COBRA for 18 months. By that time, she was in graduate school and was able to get student insurance. When she graduated, however, she was unable to get insurance on her own as she had pre-existing conditions that precluded purchasing insurance on the open market.

I was following a similar path. When we first met, I was working on my PhD while also teaching full time. In 2011, I was beginning my dissertation and my college, facing budget cuts, was offering a payoff to anyone willing to resign. By this time, my wife was on my insurance, and I hesitated to give up my benefits, but we eventually decided I would resign and take student insurance for both of us.

From there, I was playing a delicate balancing act. I knew the healthcare exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) were supposed to become available in January 2014. I pressed forward with my dissertation without wanting to graduate before the exchanges were available. I found that I could stay on the student insurance for six months past my graduation date. I defended my dissertation in March 2013, but did not turn in final paperwork in time for spring graduation, meaning that I would have to enroll in the summer. I graduated in August and was able to keep the student insurance for my wife and myself until February 2014.

Thankfully, the exchanges did go into effect by the beginning of 2014, and we were both able to purchase insurance for ourselves. The cost of the insurance was about the same as the price for the student insurance, but it is a much better insurance plan. I am extremely grateful for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which made this possible.

But the ACA is even better than I realized. I now teach part time for two colleges. Under the ACA, I can join rejoin the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and purchase health insurance along with disability insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance, and life insurance for myself and my wife. Further, the teaching I am now doing applies to my years of service in the Teacher Retirement Service, which means my retirement account is growing and will become available to me sooner.

I am not happy with all of President Obama’s policies by any means, and ultimately I would like to see the US adopt a single-payer model for healthcare, but Obamacare is a step in the right direction. Without Obamacare, my wife and I would have joined the millions of working Americans who have no health insurance or access to affordable healthcare.

So, thanks, Obama.