The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is more than just a piece of legislation in my home. My mom has been waiting for health insurance for nearly a decade. But now, thanks to the ACA, or Obamacare, my mom can finally gain access to the coverage she needs.
For almost ten years, I have heard my mom use the “Am I that sick?” test for determining when to see a doctor. She has had to rely on pharmaceutical samples for medicine, has gone without recommended lab tests, and has rebalanced her budget countless times to deal with medical emergencies.
She once called me after a slip and fall. She had broken her arm, but did not want to call for an ambulance because it was too costly. Thankfully, she was able to reach a friend who could drive her to the nearest hospital. Victory, however, was short-lived, as her visit to the ER turned into an unexpected expense amounting to thousands of dollars, meaning that for months, she had to use her credit card to pay for basic necessities, like food, gas, and utilities.
Last Sunday, though, my mom sat down at my kitchen table and did what millions of Americans are doing at kitchen tables across the nation. She sat down, went on Healthcare.gov, discovered that she qualified for a tax credit to help her afford quality health insurance, and then found 86 health plans from which to choose. All in less than 10 minutes.
By offering financial help to those who need it, the ACA puts health insurance within reach for people like my mom. Like many of us, when my mom lost her job, she lost her health insurance coverage. COBRA, however, was out of the question – it was far too expensive, especially given lost income. And with premiums of over $700 per month, my mom could not afford an individual health insurance plan.
Her situation is not unique. In 2012, 61 percent of adults without health insurance reported being uninsured because the cost of insurance was too high or because they had lost their job.
My mom’s tax credit – of almost $300 per month – means that she can finally, realistically, shop for a healthcare plan. And the ACA ensures that insurance companies can’t charge her more just because she’s a woman. Nor can she be denied coverage because of any pre-existing conditions.
So, last Sunday, my mom began comparing health insurance plans on Healthcare.gov. We were able to sort plans by category, cost, and coverage and then see side-by-side comparisons. And while there were important differences in the available options, each plan must cover a set of essential benefits, including hospitalization, lab tests, prescription drugs, and more.
Once my mom decides on a plan, she will finally be able to see a primary care doctor, receive preventive care, undergo regular breast cancer screenings, and protect herself from financial instability in case of emergency.
All plans must also cover well-woman visits with no cost sharing, meaning that you cannot be charged a co-pay or co-insurance, even if you haven’t yet met your deductible. Cervical cancer screenings, counseling for STIs, birth control, prenatal care, and breastfeeding support are just some of the services that are covered without any additional costs.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the ACA will give 18.6 million uninsured women access to affordable, quality health insurance. That means that millions of women who went without preventive care, went without care for chronic diseases, or went without prescription drugs, can now afford to access life-saving services. I’m happy to report that my mom is one of them.
For coverage beginning on January 1, 2014, you must enroll by December 23, 2013. Treat yourself, and your family, to the gift of health insurance this year. Tell your neighbors and friends. Now is the time to #GetCovered.