Friends, the White House is asking folks to share their Obamacare stories with them via an online form. While it appears they are asking for stories of hardship under Obamacare, the form can also be used to show the good side of the Affordable Care Act. If you've been helped, or your family, or your friends, share it here.
For me, the Affordable Care Act wasn't around when I graduated from college. I was living in an even smaller town outside of my small university town, and I was working at an office supply store to make ends meet. I wasn't making ends meet very well, and I relied on my credit card quite heavily (which I'm so close to FINALLY paying off). I tried to get on my employer's insurance plan, but never received the paperwork, and probably didn't work enough hours to qualify.
One day, the pad of my ring finger swelled up like a balloon. It swelled about 1/4" - 3/8", and I was completely freaked out. I was concerned that metal shavings were lodged in my finger from working in the copy center, and after MUCH debate, decided to drive over to the local hospital to get it checked out.
The nurse taking my information asked if I had insurance, and after I said no, I waited. And waited. And panicked. Finally, a doctor came over to me in the waiting room. He didn't even bother taking me back to a patient area - he examined my hand right there. After shining a flashlight at my fingertip, he pronounced that I had contracted a STD in my finger. I said, "Excuse me, what?" He showed me how my blood vessels appeared in the light from the flashlight. He said it was common for folks who worked in the medical field to contract these things sometimes, but here I was, wearing my office supply store uniform. "Sir, I'm not exposed to any health things like that. I make copies all day." He stuck to his diagnosis, said the flare up would go away eventually, but that I would always have the STD.
And then he got up, walked away, they handed me my paperwork, and I left, completely distraught. The encounter with the doctor had last five minutes and cost me $900.
I couldn't pay. I couldn't feed myself on a regular basis, and I couldn't make ends meet enough to cover $900 for a five minute (incorrect) diagnosis. I had to call the hospital, and I was blunt - "I can't pay this. I can't even eat." The woman was very kind, and said they had a program in Ohio for hardship cases like mine. If I could pay a smaller portion of it, that would be fine. I scraped together what I could, borrowed some even, and decided that anything else I needed would go on the credit card. I paid the portion they asked for, and thanked those nice ladies profusely for telling me about the program when I dropped off my payment.
Sitting here now, writing this, I can't stop crying. That fear and anxiety about paying my bills, even after they lowered the amount, the news about my lifetime diagnosis - none of it made any sense to me, and it still doesn't.
When I got bronchitis, I did not go to the doctor. When I had a pregnancy scare in my abusive relationship, I did not go to anyone. When my truck went into a ditch during a snowstorm, I did not even care if I was injured, or was at risk for hypothermia from landing in a waist deep puddle when I managed to get out.
I did not have insurance again until I moved to Chicago and started working for a law firm, and even then, it took almost a year before I went to a doctor. I was doing my laundry in my tub, I was surviving on potatoes and PB&J, and if a doctor found anything wrong, I would not be able to pay for it.
I've since joined a new company that has great benefits, that allows me to see the best doctor I've ever had. And you know what? She runs regular blood tests, and she's never found anything that matches up with the ER doctor's diagnosis.
I'm lucky now - I have insurance through my employer, and my pre-existing conditions (which is a whole different post) do not matter. I cannot forget, though, what it was like to be so scared about bills and my health, and to decide that it was better to do without care than risk the financial burden. This is my story of life before Obamacare, and I would not wish that life of worry on anyone.
As always, thank you for reading.