President Barack Obama delivers remarks at an Organizing for Action “Obamacare Summit” at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (Pool photo by Ron Sachs/Abaca Press/MCT)
Many people, mostly Republicans, have been up in arms over the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. The law helps subsidize health care for people who can’t afford it; critics are calling it socialism.
As a 30-year-old college student who lost his health insurance back in 2011, regular doctor visits haven’t been on any of my to-do lists.
Every flu virus I contracted or agonizing pain somewhere in my body was met by self-diagnosis and over-the-counter medication. WebMD became the greatest tool at my disposal and also my worst enemy.
Never has life been more scary than when WebMD’s recommendation included: “See a doctor immediately” and not having the money to do so.
In the spring, I contracted what appeared to be H1N1 and missed a week of school and work, bedridden and wishing for death. I had no reprieve other than taking generic flu medicine from Walgreens and Advil to continually break the fever I kept getting. Never once did it occur to me to seek medical attention, due to my lack of wealth.
The most I could do was sign up for health coverage through the Covered California website which, at the time, was incredibly unhelpful. At one point, I was literally put on a chat-window waiting list that exceeded 1,000 people in line ahead of me.
Additionally, the site was unhelpful because the documents requested to prove I was a California resident remained unviewed, and thus unverified, for months, leaving me without healthcare options besides quiet suffering.
Finally, about six weeks ago, I got notice that I was approved for medical benefits, and that I should apply for coverage.
Considering I’d originally applied six months earlier, there still seemed to be kinks in the system, but I was happy nonetheless.
Imagine my surprise when I logged in to Covered California that same day to find that open enrollment was closed. Again, I faced defeat at the hands of government bureaucracy.
What’s worse is that, shortly afterward, I contracted a debilitating infection in my head that remained untreated for two weeks and left me weak and unable to walk for extended periods of time. I missed work, and at a certain point I actually believed I was going to die.
I eventually decided that, cost be damned, it wasn’t worth death. I knew that a trip to the emergency room would cost me in excess of $1,000, so I turned to urgent care instead.
It turned out that avoiding death cost me a mere $200 which consisted of a trip to urgent care and prescription antibiotics and painkillers. It doesn’t seem like much compared with the prospect of dying, but it left me broke.
Soon after, when I was feeling better, I got a letter from the state of California saying that, not only was open enrollment for health insurance open, I was signed up for coverage without having to fill out any additional forms.
I was now a covered Californian.
The news couldn’t have come at a better time, because the infection came back. This time instead of waiting it out, I quickly went to an urgent care without the same fear of leaving broke.
Getting tested, rediagnosed and prescribed stronger medication cost only $31 this time.
I had paid into health benefits for eight years while working in retail and didn’t use the benefits once. Now, I work two jobs, neither of which qualifies me for health insurance.
Despite the pain, both literally and figuratively, of dealing with the slow bureaucracy, it was totally worth it.
They set me up with benefits that both helped me avoid death as well as not forcing me to become homeless by being too broke to pay my rent. And for that, I must say, “Thank you, Obamacare.”