How the Affordable Care Act Hurts Families Like Mine

You don’t whip out your cell phone as you try to steer out of an unavoidable car collision and call for auto insurance. That would be ridiculous.

But that’s what the new Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has us thinking it’s ok to do: scramble for health care at the last minute just because suddenly we can. By “we,” I mean people who haven’t had insurance and don’t have a good solid reason not to. The people who can afford their emergency, catastrophic medical bills and leave them for the hospital to eat or the other patients’ premiums to cover.

I’ll be up front and blunt: I know little to nothing about politics. I don’t remember anything I learned in 10th grade U.S. government about what makes republicans republicans or democrats democrats. I can tell you what a filibuster is, but I can’t tell you the process of how a bill becomes a law without singing a little schoolhouse song in my head. I don’t understand why unrelated tidbits are thrown into bills just to get them pass without much to-do.

Frankly, I don’t really understand health insurance either. Well, I didn’t until I started working with a population that tended more often than not to be living below poverty level and relying on Medicaid to cover their chronic illnesses. I didn’t even really understand the inner workings of insurance when my husband started working in the business. I’d nod and smile and try to look semi-intelligent when he’d make a statement about the effect of some coverage update. I really only began to understand the concept of health insurance when I had a plan of my own and an illness to deal with, instead of just skating on by in good health.

I’m telling you this because I’m just like most of you. I don’t have strong, boisterous political beliefs that sway my opinion one way or the other. I don’t have some inherent knowledge of the inner workings of governmental policy or why insurance is the way it is. But what I do understand is how this shift towards a so-called “universal healthcare” affects me and my family and how downright confusing it is for the average Joe.

When I first learned about “Obamacare” I didn’t understand what the big fuss was about. It’s not like anyone actually enjoys paying for health insurance, or paying the bills for the parts insurance doesn’t cover. It’s just something you do as a responsible adult. You innately understand if you get sick or break a leg that it could potentially lead to financial ruin. But now that Obamacare is officially here and the days left to sign up for a qualifying plan are quickly slipping away, I finally get it. I get that I’m a fairly healthy individual in the grand scheme of things. I have a pretty good idea how much it costs my family to maintain an insurance plan and unfortunately a very clear idea of about how many thousands of dollars it will cost me out of pocket before my insurance kicks in with semi-adequate coverage. These are things I’ve come to know and accept, though I can’t say I love them. Then suddenly, without anything drastic changing about my family’s health, work, or financial situation, we’re facing huge changes in our costs and coverage.

As a holder of private insurance from a big company, I wrongly assumed my family was safe. These were changes that affected people that didn’t do the right things — or couldn’t afford to — by holding a policy and paying their medical bills. We were told we would get to keep our health plan if we were happy with it. That nothing would change unless we happened to be one of the uninsured or underinsured.

Then we got our premium estimates for the upcoming year. Though nothing “changed,” we suddenly owe twice as much with half as much coverage. We’ll be forking over more each month in addition to having a higher deductible and fewer choices.

See, there are a few flaws in the new system. While on paper it can look pretty darn good, in reality, the loopholes are quite frightening. No, my health plan may not change per se, but as a healthy, middle-class individual, my premiums are going to go up so the company can cover their bases in terms of money lost elsewhere. Somebody has to pay for the underinsured, right? And while insisting that all companies of a certain size offer a health plan to their employees sounds like a good thing, the cost to smaller companies can be so high that it’s cheaper for them to willingly opt to pay the penalty instead of offering insurance. That leaves their employees forced to choose from the state-based exchanges in order to not have to pay their own penalty.

In addition, one of the supposed highlights of this new healthcare system is that people with pre-existing conditions can’t be denied coverage because they’re sick. As the mom of a toddler with asthma and health problems since the day he was born three weeks and six days early, this should be music to my ears. And one day it just might be, but right now that means we’re all paying more in order to cover those extra costs. For those who really, truly couldn’t get coverage because of an already-existing illness, I have no problem with this change. For those that who didn’t have insurance because they were willing to take that risk and are now seizing the opportunity to get cheap insurance despite ailments that have arisen since they made that poor decision, that’s just not fair to those of us who have been paying premiums all along even though we may not have needed any health care during that time.

What it really comes down to is the “Affordable” Care Act is only affordable to those that didn’t already have insurance. It’s very much not affordable to those of us who have had health insurance to start with. Now we owe more money because the extra costs need to be covered somehow, someway. Let’s not even start on the tax changes that are snuck into this bill that really have nothing to do with what your health condition or health care policy is. While it’s based on good ideals, there are too many flaws, loopholes, misunderstandings, and poorly thought-out, long-term consequences to such a drastic (and quick) overhaul of a system we’ve been used to for decades upon decades. This doesn’t even come close to addressing all the issues, like the fact that in this age of technology so advanced you couldn’t have imagined it even five years ago, the actual act of signing up for a plan online — or even by phone — is so difficult it’s literally almost impossible for many.

I get it; it’s confusing. Like the First Lady says herself, “because of the Affordable Care Act, we now have the security of knowing that no matter what life throws their way, we’ll be able to get our kids the care they need.” That’s true. As a mom I resonate with every word she writes, but it leaves out a lot of important details, especially for people in other situations.

Am I a saying we don’t need a big change? No. But I’m not sure this is the right way to go about it.

Michelle Obama on Why the Affordable Care Act Is a Good Thing
Obamacare Explained in 15 Bullet Points
President Obama Promotes Plan That Historically Hasn’t Worked
Why Healthcare Reform Is Important for Our Kids


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