by Bettina

Living with epilepsy since I was four years old – on and off until the most recent and permanent bout – is just a routine part of my life. Taking medication in the morning and evening is no different for me than brushing my teeth. When mild petit-mal seizures occur, I can generally hide them with my hand or a glass of water without even a break in conversation. I am truly lucky.

If I did not have access to good health care, however, I would not be a functioning adult. The mild and controllable seizures I have would increase in severity and frequency. Healthcare coverage is not a luxury for me; it is a necessity.

But despite being fully employed since my graduation from college I have had trouble finding affordable coverage. I work at a small non-profit that gives me a generous stipend to help cover the cost of my health insurance; however, my best option for coverage came through COBRA extended from my family’s insurance plan at $593 per month. Prices under HIPAA, available to people who have exhausted COBRA coverage, could reach up to $1100 per month, which would take a sizable portion of my take-home salary.

Right after the launch of the state Health Insurance Marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I signed up on DC Health Link, the Washington, DC marketplace. It was perfect timing, as my COBRA coverage is scheduled to expire in February. I did not have any trouble logging in or connecting. Honestly, the biggest issue I experienced was remembering my password.

The process was seamless. I even thought it was fun. The website showed me a bunch of options with varying coverage, and I chose the best plan that fit my price range. I was most surprised by how quickly I got through and that I was never even asked about my epilepsy.

I kept waiting for someone to tell me I was not approved. I was convinced that would happen. But the only thing that came in the mail was a request that I send in my payment, which was $343 less per month than I was paying before. I kept waiting for someone to tell me they made a mistake and take it back. I never thought I could go through the process and feel like a normal person.

The launch of the new Health Insurance Marketplaces is a true blessing for me, and I know that there are many stories like mine around the country. The ACA is a groundbreaking and remarkable advance for millions of Americans whose current medical needs are not being met.

Healthcare should not be a privilege – it is a basic human right. I thank President Obama and the ACA for making that possible.