Today is my first day of healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This represents a circle of experience with our healthcare system that’s been a lifetime coming.
When I was a kid, my stepfather was in the U.S. Army fighting in Vietnam. I didn’t have many ailments, but when I cut my foot and had to go to the emergency room, or when I had mononucleosis in first grade, we had the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS) to take care of the bill. Yes, there was a bureaucracy, but at least we knew I wasn’t gonna die from one of things kids commonly get.
As an adult, I’ve mostly vowed not to get sick. But like a lot of people 50 and older, I have a few issues that require regular checkups and medications. And refusing to get sick, doesn’t make it so.
10 years ago, when I would need to go see a doctor— like when I was attacked by brown recluse spiders — I just paid out of pocket for five years or so. It was $100 or so per visit, maybe another $50 labs, but affordable for a while. God forbid I should get cancer or something and be hospitalized.
Then, in 2008, the economy crashed. Times got leaner for me and I just toughed it out and went without seeing a doctor or getting my prescriptions filled for a year. At the end of that year, I was a physical wreck.
I found my way to the Stillwater Community Health Center and for more than a year they literally saved my life until I could work hard enough to qualify for another low-cost government program: Insure Oklahoma.
For nearly two years, I was able to get regular care through this program. It was essentially Medicaid with premiums and higher co-pays. But hey, once again for nearly two years, I received essential care and that allowed me to contribute to society in real, if unimportant, ways.
On September 30, I received a letter from Insure Oklahoma saying that due to changes in the income levels of the program that I would have to get coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace for coverage beginning January 1, 2014 — today.
Let’s just kindly say, it could have gone more smoothly. You’d think, as a web developer, I would know better than to sign up on the first day. But I did and it took a couple of weeks until I got an initial account set up. Even then, the prices didn’t include the subsidies I’m eligible for. So, I waited. And waited, until a week or so before the deadline when everything was there I needed to complete the enrollment.
At that point, things were mostly working and I was able to complete the application by the December 23 deadline. And then, I waited. And waited. Until I got the basic info from the insurance company and was able to go online and pay my bill. Now I’m covered. It costs about $20 more a month than Insure Oklahoma, but it’s better coverage with a wider array of services I can access.
It may not have been pretty or easy to get to here, but this is progress and it’s extremely important that we get this right for everyone.