I've told parts of this story before so I'll mostly skip over the narrative about the why and the how, but since 2005 and for various reasons including a punitively large premium increase, a preexisting condition (back injury) and cash-flow issues due to the Great Recession, I've been an unintentional member of the often discussed 30 million uninsured Americans.
For nearly ten years, I've been one serious injury or one serious illness away from financial ruin.
It's not that I didn't want to be covered. I was simply incapable of being covered. Not long after dropping my small business plan in 2005 due to an egregious rate hike, I was riding my bike through a small town near my house when a group of teenagers in a beat-up hatchback cut me off in traffic. My bike and my body t-boned into the side of the car as it made a sudden, screeching right turn. The impact smashed one of my vertebrae, but fortunately the driver's auto insurance covered the ER visit and the MRI. Injury aside, I was very lucky in that regard. If I had crashed on my own accord, I would've been screwed.
Suffice to say, acquiring health insurance after the accident was impossible, especially since I refused to give up cycling.
But as of April 1, and along with six million others (so far), I'll be covered by an affordable, comprehensive health insurance plan. After deliberating for several months over which plan to choose, I finally pulled the trigger and signed up for a Kaiser-Permanente plan through the Hawaii Health Connector (the Hawaii exchange). It's a "Silver I" plan with a relatively inexpensive $197 monthly premium, along with a $1000 deductible, $15 generic drugs (no deductible), free wellness checkups and so forth. And, naturally, no lifetime or annual limits on coverage. (Incidentally and for the edification of any tea party trolls, no, I didn't qualify for subsidies. Oh, and Kaiser-Permanente isn't a "government-run" insurer. Sorry!)
The most refreshing aspect of my uneventful 30-minute enrollment process was the total lack of any questions relating to my medical history. Without preexisting conditions as a factor in receiving coverage, medical histories are irrelevant now. They simply don't matter. If you pay the premiums, you're covered.
Had it not been for the ACA I wouldn't be insured. Frankly, will my voting choices be guided in part by a desire to remain insured? You're damn right they will. And anyone who tries to repeal the law will hear from me in this space and in the voting booth -- now more than ever. I refuse to allow any tea party gomer deep in the throes of flaming Obama Derangement Syndrome to take away my coverage. I suspect I'm not the only one.
Maybe that was a major political consideration for the Democrats and the Obama administration to pass the law, maybe not. One way or another, a long-term side-effect of the ACA is that voters with Obamacare coverage will vigorously campaign against anyone who tries to take it away. In this regard, not unlike Medicare and Social Security, it won't be long before center-right Republicans wise up and support the ongoing existence of (and, hopefully, improvements to) the ACA. In the process, the nickname "Obamacare" will become one of affection rather than ridicule.
Oh, and speaking of tea party gomers, there's this unit:
Contrary to flippant hipsters who, in bursts of social media ennui, insist that both parties are the same, the ACA is absolutely one of many issues where the two parties have distinctly separate views, but it also illustrates how our votes matter, how politics matters -- not just in terms of distant, disconnected issues in faraway lands, or in terms of hypothetical slippery slopes, or whatever the news cycle happens to be pumping during a given week. This is a one-to-one relationship. Vote Democratic, protect your healthcare. Undermine the Democrats, risk losing your healthcare. Likewise, as soon as the GOP controls Congress and the White House, I will lose my healthcare. It's as simple as that.
I mean, here's a tea partier whose first commercial out of the gate, during his primary challenge against incumbent conservative Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), is about literally shooting the law that's provided me with health insurance (you might've noticed how one of his firearms is the AR-15, the Sandy Hook and Aurora weapon) and then shredding that law in a wood chipper. There's no gray area there. If there's a majority of this species of hoople elected to Congress, millions of us will lose our coverage. And it won't be the same scenario as the people who were dropped last year and were able to easily and immediately sign up for similar ACA plans. Unlike those cases, I won't qualify for an affordable new policy to replace my coverage. I'll be uninsured again. Indefinitely.
Other than when I was badly impacted by the recession and subsequently had skin in the game for an effective and robust recovery plan, I can't think of another issue that's this personal to me. And I can't help but to take personally nonsense like that commercial, as well as the politicians in cahoots with the same destructive, dangerous point of view. I've always identified as a pragmatic political realist before any other label, but healthcare, now more than ever, is deeply personal now. Simply put: my health depends upon preventing pro-repeal Republicans from being elected. Call me an Obamabot or a Democratic shill. Knock yourself out because I don't care. This is my political reality and the political reality for millions of other Americans. Come to think of it, it's indeed both pragmatic and realistic to vote in the best interest of your own well-being.
So now, on this day, at the end of nine uninsured years, I can think of only two more words to encapsulate precisely how I feel right now.