I have a documented disability which would make it physically difficult to hold down a 40-hours-a-week job. Also documented is the fact that I need fresh air and regular exercise to maintain my physical and psychological health. I have student loans to pay, among other expenses. So, to support myself, I started my own business. It's nearly 14 months old, and I'm still building a client base and a reputation, so it's not yet profitable. I'm relying on my slim savings to tide me over until it is, as I have no wish to take out more loans.
The work is active, and has the potential for physical injury (I work with ladders). I am at high risk of tetanus, so I have to stay current on my vaccinations. I rely heavily on clear, accurate vision, supplied by prescription eyeglasses. If I were to get injured badly, I have no resources past a couple of thousand dollars; uninsured, I would have to rely on friends and family for a bit more than that, or (above that) have the bills go unpaid and ruin my chances for financial independence. This is not a remote possibility.
I have been denied coverage by a major insurer due to preexisting conditions, despite the fact that I have not sought a doctor's treatment for my disability for years; I manage it with lifestyle changes and occasional massage therapy. I got the diagnosis for accommodation at school, in fact. Beyond the disability, few would deny that I am quite healthy, and I rarely see a doctor -- mostly for routine things like pap smears. I take no prescriptions.
Without Obamacare, the only way I can get affordable health insurance (more than catastrophic, which doesn't help if I break my wrist) is to stay poor enough to qualify for the county's low-income health plan. It's what I have now, and while it's decent, I have to be well below the poverty line to keep it. As I don't want to be dependent on social services, as I want real financial independence, this is not attractive. But as soon as I got into the black and really supported myself with my own labor, I would lose that coverage, and have bleak prospects for replacing it.
With Obamacare, I can buy my own health insurance without being denied again. If it's a little more than my young business can afford, I can get tax breaks to make up the difference. Right now, while I'm still running a deficit, I've been offered MediCal, the state insurance plan, which I never qualified for before. It gives me the services offered by the county plan, plus (I'm told) a bit of dental, and a vision plan. I haven't had dental or vision since I finished grad school. I need to investigate the dental, but if it takes the cost down for cleanings, I'll go get my first one in two years. I've been paying out of pocket for my vision prescriptions and glasses (and believe me, my glasses are not cheap), and relief there would be welcome.
The sheer amount of anxiety I was carrying about all this, without knowing it, has started to fade. I can focus more easily on the things I have to pay attention to, like running my business and keeping costs down. There is no longer the looming cliff of losing my healthcare when I make too much money to keep it, and the semi-yearly question of whether the county will cancel my coverage has gone away. Many of you, who have worked for major employers your whole lives, probably have no idea what that feels like. Believe me, it's huge.
I understand that there's been a bunch of chaos, partly because of the law itself, partly because insurers have taken advantage of the confusion. I know some people are concerned about their payments going up (do take a look at the subsidies, though, they're not only below the poverty line). I trust, however, that when things finally settle we will be no worse off in general; the politicians are certainly motivated to make this work for as many people as possible. And I, among many others, will be far better off than I was.
Helping a sole proprietor stay healthy and fiscally solvent is a tangible goal of the ACA. For all of you muddling through cancellations and rate hikes and media FUD, think about the fact that you are helping me avoid disability and (ultimately) get off government assistance altogether by smoothing the transition from poverty to prosperity. I am extremely grateful, and once I've made my living, I promise I won't forget it. I've always believed in giving the next person a leg up... and it might even be you, fallen on hard times. Life is funny that way.
I have an account as Torquill on Dreamwidth, and that's where I posted this. You can sign in with OpenID to comment on the original post, or you can go ahead and comment here; either way works.