Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition that affects 176 million women worldwide and 1 in 10 women in the United States. I’d been experiencing debilitating pain — not just while on my period, but throughout the rest of the month as well, and before long, my condition was upgraded to Stage IV endometriosis.
This was quickly becoming about more than just painful periods.
Over the next three years, I would go on to require five major surgeries and rack up out-of-pocket medical costs to the tune of $60,000. I had good health insurance through the company I was working for, but the care of my medical condition was still expensive.
And yet even then I knew that I was lucky to simply have coverage at all.
Back then, I worked for a large corporation, but I’d always wanted to become a writer. When I looked into private healthcare options, however, I was abruptly denied: Endometriosis was considered a pre-existing condition, making me a gamble not worth taking for insurance companies.
That all changed in January 2014, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed. It was now illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions like mine — and this, quite literally, changed my life.
No matter how you feel about ACA — or “Obamacare,” as it’s now affectionately (and not-so-affectionately) known — the reality is that any one of us could be affected by a major health condition at any time. And that’s scary. But the pre-existing condition clause protects all of us. It ensures that every American has the same right to healthcare, regardless of the medical issues they’ve faced; and for many of us, that’s been an incredible gift.
Yet even before the ACA was passed, I decided to take a huge risk in 2013 when my daughter was born: I quit my corporate job, launched my own business, and said goodbye to my employer-sponsored health insurance. And after a few months on COBRA — which at $750 a month in premiums, was too costly to justify — I said goodbye to that, too.
For three months as a new single mom, I went without health insurance. Which is to say that for three months, I lived in constant fear of catastrophe striking.
I was among the first to apply for Obamacare through Healthcare.gov as soon as it was made available, and I was legitimately in tears when I saw my options laid out before me. Happy tears. Tears of relief. I had a choice of over 25 plans, and I wound up selecting one that was going to give me similar coverage to what I’d had under COBRA (with a $1,500 deductible), at around $150 a month in premiums.
I believed ACA was the savior I had been looking for.
In the years since, that belief has faltered. My deductibles have skyrocketed, my premiums have risen, and my options have dwindled. This last year, I had a total of three plans available to me. I selected one that had a $10,0000 deductible and costs me nearly double what that original plan did.
So while, yes, my premiums are affordable, having to spend $10,000 out of pocket before my coverage kicks in is certainly not.
The ACA is failing to accomplish a huge part of what it originally set out to do: Give Americans affordable healthcare. I’ll be the first to admit that, even as someone who was a vocal proponent of the plan originally. And yet, it is still the reason millions of Americans have access to health coverage at all.
For that reason alone, Donald Trump’s recent comments about wanting to repeal the ACA as soon as he enters office, without a reasonable replacement plan in place, are truly terrifying to me.
I’m a single mom. I work from home, I run my own business, and I have been beyond blessed to actually find more flexibility and success (both financially and in regards to my personal wellbeing) in the pursuit of this dream career of mine than I ever would have found in my former corporate life.
But if the ACA is repealed without a replacement plan in place, I stand to lose everything.
Shortly after the election, my dad confessed to me that he had voted for Trump. I was surprised (if only because Trump as a person is everything my dad has always been against), but not angry. Even as someone who has been a life-long, vocal liberal, and as a woman who was personally appalled by how Trump carried himself on the campaign trail, I recognize that this election season was a mess of epic proportions. And I know that for many people, there was the struggle of feeling like there was no good choice to be made.
I know that was the struggle my dad faced.
But one thing I said to him in that conversation was this, “You realize that Trump wants to repeal ACA, right? And that if he does that, I might not have health coverage at all?”
“That won’t happen,” he said. “They won’t do that until there is an appropriate replacement plan in place.”
Oh, how I wish that were actually true.
Obama came into office in 2008 with affordable healthcare as his number one priority, and yet the ACA wasn’t fully in place until 2014. These things take time. And if Trump gets his way, millions of Americans, myself included, will be without health coverage just a few short months from now.
Another benefit of the ACA that will be lost? The ability to continue covering your children under your plan until they are 26 years of age. If the ACA is terminated, insurance companies won’t have any obligation at all to continue extending you that right. Those of you who are currently covering your college-aged children could very well be facing the reality of those children now being uninsured.
The ACA may not be perfect, but why not fix what isn’t working? Why not present the country with a plan, instead of threatening to repeal something “on day one” that millions of Americans rely on every day?
Because let’s be honest for a second: Healthcare costs were skyrocketing long before the ACA came along. In 2006, the New York Times reported that the cost of family coverage had risen by 87% since 2000. Yet under Obama, the growth of healthcare premiums actually slowed.
With or without the ACA, we were all facing higher costs. I think the bigger problem with ACA at this point is that most people who voted in favor of it (myself included) had hoped it would do more to fix that issue.
Clearly it hasn’t. And I am 100% in favor of looking for better solutions. I’m just not in favor of cutting off millions of people from any options at all in the process.
I want to believe that’s not what most people who voted for Trump want, either. I want to believe that if those voters were to sit down with me, and others like me, and hear our personal struggles with healthcare, they would agree that we all should have the right to affordable healthcare coverage. And that simply cutting people off from coverage to prove a point is the wrong way to go.
I think most voters probably believed Trump would push for a replacement plan prior to enacting a complete repeal. I want to believe that most people can recognize how catastrophic simply repealing could be.
If you fall into that camp, consider this my plea: Call your legislators. Make your voice known. Identify yourself as a Trump supporter, and explain why it is so important for a replacement plan to be put in place before a repeal can happen.
Maybe that plan includes altering the parts of the ACA that aren’t working. Or perhaps it does include a complete repeal, with a better plan in its place — something Trump has been promising, but has never once actually outlined.
The bottom line is this: Everyone deserves to have health insurance. And even if you don’t personally feel like you have benefited from the good parts of ACA (like the pre-existing condition clause or the ability to cover children until the age of 26), I can guarantee that someone you know and love has.
Aren’t they worth fighting for?