Now, before you get angry or happy about this, please let me explain. The Affordable Care Act did not help me, but not for the reasons that you may think. It didn’t help because it was written to appease the insurance industry and Republicans who hated President Obama.
I could not afford health insurance before the Affordable Care Act, either. I became a Medical Assistant in 2008 and I worked for a small family practice. When I say small, I mean it: it was just me and the doctor. I did everything from front office to back office, yet I was not offered health insurance because I was a 19 year old female, which meant I was in the prime period of life to get pregnant. Instead of offering me health insurance, I was given $100 extra a month to buy my own. Even then I could not afford it.
Then came the Affordable Care Act. By that time I was working for a larger network and had insurance through my job. I paid about $200 a month just for myself and my deductible was over $1,000. This meant that I paid full price for every doctor’s visit, except for my annual physical. I may as well have been self-pay and I would have saved $200 every month.
It wasn’t until 2014 that I attempted to sign up for the ACA because neither of our employers offered us a healthcare plan. I was part-time and my husband worked for a small business. Because I live in a red state, which did not expand Medicaid in a childish F-U to President Obama and because of the area in which I lived, we were not offered subsidies and didn’t qualify for Medicaid, since it wasn’t expanded. This left us in a position of being too poor for insurance, yet too “wealthy” for Medicaid. So, we went without insurance that year.
The following year we were able to get subsidies, so I got us the most basic plan that was offered. It wasn’t very good, but it at least allowed us to get our annual physicals and paid for some of my medications. I was satisfied with it at that point.
In late 2015 I logged into the exchange with the idea that I would just pick the same plan we had the year before for the following year. I quickly discovered that the plan’s premiums had increased to the point that it was no longer worth it. Instead, I picked what I thought was a better plan, through Florida Blue, for about the same price. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that none of my doctors nor my pharmacy accepted this particular plan. I cancelled the plan in February of 2016 and we have been uninsured ever since.
In March of 2017 we filed our taxes and the IRS quickly took half of the money we were supposed to get back due to the fact that we hadn’t had insurance the year before, yet on paper we should have been able to afford it. I was pretty angry about this until I realized that, in actuality, we had saved money. Had we kept that terrible Florida Blue plan, we would have paid double the amount that was taken from our taxes.
What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that the Affordable Care Act really didn’t change much in the way of how insurance works. Sure, it allowed you to be on your parent’s plan until the age of 26 and made it to where insurance companies couldn’t charge you more for a pre-existing condition, but other than that and making it mandatory, not much changed.
The basic set up of the plans was exactly the same. Some people’s premiums went up, while others went down. This happened often before the ACA, as well. More people were eligible for Medicaid in some states, which helped a lot of people. No policy or plan will be universally loved, but in reality this policy helped more people than it hurt.
I am happy that millions of people who couldn’t have insurance before now have it. I am happy to pay so that my fellow Americans can get the care they need. I hold nothing against anyone who has health insurance through the ACA and I do not blame poor people or anyone else for “taking” my health insurance, because I couldn’t have afforded it even without the ACA.
No, who I blame for my lack of health insurance is my state legislature who would rather win a pissing contest than do what’s best for their constituents. I blame our government and Supreme Court for making it to where insurance companies can bribe our politicians into doing their bidding through lobbying. I blame those who receive money from those lobbyists for their greed overpowering their desire to do what they were elected to do.
I’ve already spoken about how I feel about insurance companies and the current state of our healthcare system, but let me reiterate: Our healthcare system is broken. It is run by greed and greed alone. We live in a country that spends more on healthcare than any other nation, yet has some of the worst outcomes. We live in a country that idolizes capitalism and “free markets” to the point that we are totally comfortable letting people die from treatable illnesses instead of following the lead of every other developed nation and making healthcare a right.
The Affordable Care Act didn’t help me, but it isn’t because poor people got insurance or because I was forced to pay a tax for other’s care. It didn’t help me because it is still based on capitalism and is run by the insurance industry. I would be happy to pay more taxes so that everyone can live without worrying about an illness driving them into bankruptcy and homelessness, myself included.
Everyone asks how will we pay for a Medicare for All plan or universal coverage. Well, we can start by taking some of the tax money we give to our bloated, bureaucratic military, which is really great at wasting that tax money, and put it into the healthcare of our citizens. We can pay for it by closing the loopholes that allow our biggest companies to evade paying taxes on their billions of dollars in profits and putting that money toward healthcare for our citizens. We can pay for it by increasing taxes on the top 1% instead of cutting them.
There are ways of paying for this that would not put us into debt. It’s just that we as humans fear change and refuse to progress into a nation that cares about its citizens.