Friday, May 2, 2014

My Brush with the Affordable Care Act, aka ‘Obamacare’ – A Personal Story



First, an observation.  Although I am sure there are exceptions, every critic of the Affordable Care Act that I have heard or read has come from the ranks of those who have decent to excellent health insurance benefits, usually provided through their place of employment.  This is precisely the demographic that the Affordable Care Act was not intended to help, for the simple reason that these people are not in need of help.



I was comfortably ensconced among this American majority, until suddenly I wasn’t.  This past week, I was informed that my insurance company had canceled my insurance policy, because my former Christian mission employer, which had terminated me because of my conversion to Orthodoxy three years ago, had also just terminated my wife, through whose employment I had maintained my insurance.  Given that I am on several medications that require monitoring and regular refilling, being without insurance has an immediate effect.

I am currently between positions, making ends meet with a part-time job at the local YMCA that pays $11/hour for a 30-40 hour work week.  I am not allowed to work 40 hours/week because then the Y would have to pay me benefits, including insurance.  But the level of pay (and this is after a $3/hour raise in March when I was given supervisory responsibilities over our front desk team) translates into a less-than-living wage.  This amount has been supplemented by on-going raised support for my previous position as a university lecturer in Kenya.  But that support is ending this month as well.  I am applying for a new position with the same group which would allow me to return to Kenya and teach.  But that process has its own challenges.  So in the meantime, I have joined the ranks of the working poor, not making enough money to pay insurance premiums, and thus facing an uncertain health future as one of the tens of millions of Americans without health insurance, among other things.

Needless to say, I was alarmed.  So yesterday, I decided to explore the Affordable Care Act website, healthcare.gov.  This, of course, is the site that caused so much excitement when it was rolled out DOA last year, followed by pledges by government officials to fix it, followed by months of quietly doing what it was originally intended to do, which is connect uninsured Americans with affordable options for health insurance.  Then came the celebrations and sighs of relief when the ACA plan exceeded expectations of enrollment earlier this Spring.  Then came word of my own insurance crackup.


Whatever the online horrors of last October and November, I had no problems navigating healthcare.gov.  The site was well-designed, easily traversed, and, when I was confronted with insurance jargon I didn’t understand, there was always a way presented that I could access to find out what was being discussed.  Best of all, I discovered that I was eligible for a significant monthly reduction in the premium of whatever plan I might choose.  So I chose a plan, one which would have cost me $440/month out of my pocket, but which with the ACA discount will cost me $95/month.  I couldn’t afford any of the other plans out of pocket.  But this I can do. 


So I have enrolled.  And am waiting to pay my first bill.  And I will have insurance again as of the first of June. 

I hope one way or another to get a job that will afford me insurance as part of my package.  But given that this is not my present reality, that I am unexpectedly living the life of a single underemployed 55 year old man, I am grateful for a way to afford insurance.  Because I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing lasts forever, and things can change in an instant.

Whatever else one may want to say about the ACA/Obamacare, I’ve been helped.  It’s provided me the bridge over some unexpected uncertain times with respect to managing my healthcare.  And in my case, it is working. And I am grateful.

In my experience, at least.