The View From Your Obamacare

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 1 2015 @ 2:31pm

Some final remaining emails for one of 2014’s best reader threads:

Before Obamacare, I had individual health insurance (I’m a freelance writer) that cost $375 per month and had a $6000 deductible. I also have a bum shoulder, and my physical President Obama Visits Boston To Talk About Health Caretherapist stopped accepting my insurance, so I had to pay him out of pocket. In other words, my expensive insurance was pretty worthless.

When I looked into changing insurance a few years ago, the rates quoted were more than double due to my “pre-existing” condition of a bum shoulder coupled with a recent prescription or two. While I had health insurance, it really provided me with no advantages other than occasionally reducing the amount a doctor was paid. In effect, I had really expensive catastrophic insurance to protect my aging parents’ assets should I suffer some horrible disease that wiped me out financially (and overwhelmed them with guilt).

Now I pay $475 per month with no deductible. I’ve used my health insurance 3-4 times (plus physical therapy) this year, and my physical therapist now accepts my insurance. In fact he makes about $3 more per visit than I was paying out of pocket. The point is that now my savings occur when I use my healthcare. Before, my savings occurred only when I didn’t go to doctors (because I never exceeded my deductible).

This isn’t the sexiest healthcare story out there, but another example of the incremental benefits of Obamacare.

Another:

Thank you so much for giving me a platform to share my Obamacare success story! Well, actually, it’s my brother’s story and it starts about a year ago.

He was 25 and working for a small radio group in Ithaca, NY. He got into a PhD program at IUP and, since he was barely making any money, he decided to quit his job and spend the summer relaxing and traveling and visiting friends before starting school.

Those plans got thwarted when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in June. Three surgeries later, I am happy to say that he is in recovery and doing great, but damn my family would’ve been fucked without Obamacare.

Obamacare let my brother stay on my parents’ insurance, so he was covered when he got his diagnosis. I’m not sure what the costs of his treatment have been exactly, but the bill for just administering the iodine pill he had to take was almost $200,000.00.  When you add all the tests and the three surgeries to that, the costs have got to be close to a million, if not far more.

My family would likely be considered well off, but those costs would’ve bankrupted us. It’s possible that he would’ve been on Cobra without Obamacare, but I think it’s at least equally likely that he would’ve decided to just wait until he could join the school plan because Cobra is so expensive.

At the very least, Obamacare has saved my family from significants costs. And, because he now has a pre-existing condition, it’s the only reason he can buy health insurance and will be able to for the rest of his life.

By the way, my brother purchased his plan on the exchange, before the deadline, and it covers all the doctors he’s been seeing for his treatment. Unfortunately, he doesn’t make enough to get subsidies and PA hasn’t expanded Medicare, so he’s stuck paying the full price. But at less than $150 a month, it’s affordable. And again, at least it’s available.

Another reader:

Count me as another grateful and completely uncounted beneficiary of Obamacare. I work in state government, so my employer health care is about as stable and comprehensive as it gets.

That said, it’s not me I’m worried about; my now-four-year-old son was diagnosed with a tumor growing out of his brain stem in January 2013. The initial MRIs still make me sick to my stomach when I see them – the tumor took up well over 1/3 of the space in the lower portions of his brain, forcing the right side of the brain all the way over to the left. He had three brain surgeries over the span of 10 days and was in the hospital for three weeks. By March 2013, his symptoms were recurring, and a MRI confirmed continued growth. He started chemotherapy immediately, which is still ongoing.

Needless to say, our health insurance has paid for itself many times over. Every day of chemo (which happens once a week) comes with a sticker price of over $6,000. We pay $20. Last year we hit our out-of-pocket maximum for the year by January 7. Our bills would easily be in the 7-figures were it not for insurance.

So why do I thank Obamacare? Three reasons: elimination of lifetime caps (we’d have long since blown past those), under-26 coverage (he can stay on my insurance for two more decades!) and elimination of pre-existing conditions (he can get his own coverage!).Beard

On a somewhat related note, he’ll be done with chemo in 11 days (and 4 hours, but who’s counting?), and it has gone extremely well. His last MRI showed the tumor at the smallest it’s ever been, and strong likelihood that all that is left is scar tissue. He still has his feeding tube, but he’s mostly off oxygen overnight.

When we started this ordeal I shaved my head (he was very excited that we could “match”). I haven’t cut it since, and I also grew out my beard for the first time. I have had to trim that for professional reasons, but it’s all going away soon, so I’ll go ahead and send a picture to unite Obamacare and Beard of the Week (I’ll even throw in a VFYW for good measure!) Thanks for listening.

Thanks for sharing, and great beardage. One more reader:

I’m a farmer, so self-employed, and have been paying for my own Blue Cross-Blue Shield of MN policy since I started farming in 1979. I’ve had a $3K deductible or so all those years, am quite healthy except for wearing out my joints like many farmers, and since my (now former) wife didn’t have benefits, there was never an opportunity to be on a spouse’s plan. This has been a major driver in farm couples’ lives – the spouse who drives many miles for the job with benefits.

I was in a 15-year relationship after my divorce, but we never married or even lived together. My partner worked at Mayo Clinic until recently and had a very good benefits package. I remember one night  7 or 8 years ago she called late and was working on her choices for the plan and said we had until midnight to set me up on her health insurance. Then she called a little later and said since we weren’t married, I wasn’t eligible – unless we were in a same-sex relationship with each other. So I continued to buy my BC/BS plan, and anyway I’m no longer in that relationship.

[Two falls ago] we were busy with harvest until late, due to the weather. I was following the rollout of MinnesotaCare and the problems with the website, plus the national website. I waited for the website to get some of the kinks worked out, knowing I wasn’t eligible for a voucher. I had to turn in crop yield data for the subsidized crop insurance that you and all the other hard-working Americans provide for me, and while at the office my agent asked if I was signed up for health care yet. I said no and he said Blue Cross had a number of plans that were compliant but not on the website. We went over a few in maybe 10 minutes time and came up with three choices, and I left saying I’d call back with my decision. I didn’t get around to it so he called me and I took the middle choice. Same deductible, a few dollars more than I was paying, a little more coverage than I had before. I’m used to a few changes every year anyway and don’t much care about that.

I’ve been getting physical therapy for my right hip since mid-December, and a few weeks ago I learned I need a new one. It’s scheduled for June, after planting season, and with enough time to heal before harvest. Everyone wants to tell me their hip-replacement story now. The one I often think about is Jay Bennett, former member of Wilco, who died of a painkiller overdose. He needed a new hip but didn’t have insurance. He wrecked his hip doing kicks while performing onstage. I wrecked mine carrying pails of pig feed and jumping over gates. But I have insurance, and he didn’t, and I know what that hip pain feels like.

That’s my view from Obamacare.