In The Tank For Obamacare!

Yep. You read that correctly. I looooovvvve the Affordable Care Act so much, I’m calling it by the name republicans are going to sprint away from faster than Frank Luntz can find new “words that work” once people get their hands on it.

Arguably, getting your hands on it has been a challenge in the first few weeks if you live in a state without an exchange, but everybody needs to Chill Out because you have until December 15 to sign up at the federal website. Also, you can always call 800-318-2596. Warning: you may have to speak to a live human being. You’ll get over it.

Now, it’s true that I wanted single payer from the start. I still want it. (I even did a Best of the Left activism segment on where we go from here to further advance healthcare.) Alas, for now, we do not have single payer or even the much liberally coveted public option.

I’m pausing this love letter to restate a point that’s been made multiple times by me and by a lot of great liberal talkers: if republicans and corporate democrats really wanted competition in the marketplace, they wouldn’t have been afraid of the public option in the first place and we’d all just be buying in to Medicare.

In the absence of the perfect, we do find ourselves with a much improved good. The Affordable Care Act solves a plethora of problems involving discrimination, lifetime caps, an estimated 1.7 million bankruptcies this year alone, and denying me the birth control prescription I pay a prescription plan to access. Most of you reading this already know the basics and if you’re interested in some of the grittier pieces, Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic was on The Majority Report with Sam Seder today discussing the important, but lengthy minutiae. I recommend taking the time.

What’s more important than the frustrations with signing up, the exhaustively reported loopholes, glitches, overblown right-wing rhetoric and backroom deals cut as the legislation was penned is me. I’m more important. I’m a human being, as it turns out. And my quality of life is directly affected by my access to comprehensive healthcare.

I was kicked off my parents’ insurance at 22 when I graduated college. December of 2001 wasn’t exactly a banner time to enter the job market and, despite a stretch at a local newspaper, I’ve mainly been an independent contractor or service industry employee for the last 12 years. This means I have paid out of pocket for my insurance my entire adult life. I’ve watched premiums skyrocket, filled out medical history forms (a unique challenge for an adoptee), reviewed my options annually, and changed companies three times – once without my consent because UniCare was fleeing my state. There were periods in my 20’s where my health insurance cost more than my rent. Let me say that again:

There were times IN MY TWENTIES where my health insurance cost more than my rent.

Until my first abnormal pap smear, I didn’t have anything even a crafty company could consider a pre-existing condition. At 26, though, I started spending more time at my OBGYN’s office – 3 to 4 times a year, depending, to monitor abnormal cell growth and undergo the occasional colposcopy. (If you don’t know what that entails, I won’t put you through picturing it.) By that point, I had already raised my deductible to $1,500 annually with a $250 out-of-pocket prescription requirement before anything was covered. Let me tell ya, January and February sucked every year. I had to save ahead for prescriptions. I bargained with myself weighing groceries versus prescriptions – and ended up with an unplanned pregnancy. (That’s a longer story and a further enditment of how we still view reproductive care in this country which you can read at: Choice.)

When UniCare pulled out my state and transferred all their clients to BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois, my premiums hit $200/month for a $5,000 deductible. (And this was a “deal” I only got because I was grandfathered in; the following year, the closest they could give me was $400/month for a $7,500 deductible.) Copays were hiked and always required. Generic birth control had ceased to suppress my migraines and the FDA extended the patent on a name-brand drug I was waiting impatiently to access for a reasonable price. This meant my prescription plan was rendered essentially useless.

At 29-years-old, I was coughing up $350 every month for healthcare – if I didn’t have to see a doctor. A month with a doctor’s visit averaged $450-$500 depending on prescriptions and co-pays.

So, just ahead of my 30th birthday when I knew premiums were guaranteed to jump again, I shopped around. I got a decent deal with Goldenrule, the individual subsidiary of evil giant UnitedHealthOne. They were relatively decent comparatively, but I was shelling out $110/month with high co-pays, modestly helpful prescription coverage and a sky-high deductible. My premiums proceeded to increase by 15-20% annually, far beyond cost of living adjustments. I could only see a doctor three times per year, which meant I was only allowed one illness because I needed at least two appointments set aside for my primary doctor and OBGYN.

That was my story until January 2013. I was still stuck with my uninspiring, bargain-with-myself-about-how-sick-I-really-was insurance, but THEN Goldenrule was subject to what I consider the true conscience clause of the ACA: covering my birth control through the prescription plan I’D BEEN PAYING FOR since I was 22. I was in my local Planned Parenthood office on the very first business day I had off work in 2013 for the IUD I’d wanted since forever. It was painful. More painful than the half-dozen colposcopies I’ve had put together. And it was worth every last moment because FREEDOM.

I went on air, wrote, tweeted giddily and walked around talking about how glorious the ACA was because Damn! did I not miss having to pick up that prescription right on time, every month no matter what or fear the hassle of another unplanned pregnancy. That was ten months ago and very few days go by where I’m not thankful that my insurance company cannot discriminate against me because of my uterus and its needs. I thought I couldn’t love Obamacare any more than in those moments of real freedom and real choice and real bodily autonomy.

Until now.


Ahem. So, last night I went on the marketplace exchange site for New York, the state where I now hang my hat. I was sobbing with gratitude ten minutes after logging on. That’s the time it took for me to discover that with subsidies – sent directly to my new insurance company without any effort or hassle on my part – I could afford full medical, dental and vision coverage for $108.42 a month. Prescriptions are $9 if they cost anything at all and I have a $2,000 yearly out-of-pocket cap – which is essentially the opposite of a deductible.

Shit. I’m crying again.

I’ve had a recurring sinus infection since summer of 2012 that a powerful antibiotic and a refill-able Flonase prescription would knock out, but I used my three visits in January to get my IUD (plus follow-up check) and one inadequate round of treatment for the throbbing inside my face that I now simply live with. I don’t hear or breathe especially well, which can make just about every activity harder than it should be. My moderate to severe ADD is un-medicated – unless you count the eight cups of coffee I average in a day to calm the white noise. And I have only avoided the dentist because I grew up with good dental habits. If I had to drive, my outdated glasses would be a problem beyond the mild headache a weak prescription causes.

Individually, not one of my medical issues is very interesting, complaint worthy or that big of a deal. Piled on top of each other and allowed to fester untreated they’re a fucking obnoxious nightmare that someone WITH INSURANCE shouldn’t be dealing with. (No one should deal with it; it’s merely more absurd for someone with “coverage.”) I’m more productive when I’m healthy – I know that’s shocking to tea partiers who think my bootstraps can cure my allergies and Attention Deficit Disorder. I’m a more committed member of my community and a better friend when I’m not distracted by my health or lack thereof. I’m less of a risk to my elderly neighbors when I can get a flu shot, my pertussis booster and rebuild my immune system so as not to traipse cold viruses through the building like a toddler who can’t keep their fingers out of their nose.

That all happens IN TEN WEEKS when I get to see a doctor and start whatever course of treatment is the best option, not the one I can attempt to afford. That is my new reality. Thank you, ACA.

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18 replies

  1. This might be one of my favorite of your posts. Incredibly well written.

  2. Katie, I read In the Tank For Obamacare and t+houg+ht+ it +was a good read. I”m still working at getting the one on iTune. floee

    On Wed, 16 Oct 2013 01:13:00 +0000

  3. Another informative, well written post! good job, Katie

  4. Katie,

    Loooved listening to you and your guests. I an SO happy you are doing well( not that there was ever doubt)

    Was intrigued and enlightened by the commentary about poverty stigma in US. Delighted to hear personal testament in your forum.




    • Thanks, Red! The poverty stigma is one of the least discussed, most problematic issues in this country. We like to believe the myth that all of us have the same chance and that is one reason we are uncomfortable discussing our own histories and also hearing the hardships of others. Those of us who can safely tell our stories must do so to break down the stigma and start to build a route for people that doesn’t include the condescending use of the word “bootstraps.”

  5. I’ve been fortunate to have insurance for most of my adult life. There was a 6 month stretch back in 2007 when my job went to part time and the insurance I and my Type 1.5 diabetic husband was on would end and we could not get picked up on his insurance for 6 months. I signed up for COBRA Insurance to cover the lapse because of the pre-existing diabetes and it cost us over $5,000 for half a year. That didn’t cover the insulin and other meds my husband was on, that was just the $950 a month coverage. We wiped out our savings for that.

    I know so many “pre-existing condition” people who are benefiting by the ACA. I am so glad they will be able to afford healthcare now when previously they couldn’t get an insurance company to cover them without paying out an entire paycheck or more each month. For the people I know who need this, I have heard nothing but praise. We can’t be a great nation when our healthcare and education is so lacking. The ACA is a good start to getting us back on track.

    • Thank you for sharing your story! COBRA is such a joke. Like you, I’ll take this over nothing. It is impacting real people. I hope you’ve been able to recover from your gap in coverage and that your family is well. Let’s hope this means fewer people will have to share your experience. xo

  6. I am sick of the negative rhetoric about Obamacare, so this is great to hear Katie! Maybe after all this ‘repeal Obamacare’ nonsense finally dies we might get a sense of how this is going to help people, or at least maybe more stories like this will be heard. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Thank you! I think in five years, it’ll be just a part of life and we’ll have to take up the mantle of pushing for the next reform. Let’s make sure we get people educated about the ACA, but then get working on an even better system!


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