I was thinking back to where my family was when Obamacare first went into effect. I wrote the post below after we had been kicked off our health insurance & dumped into the Kansas high-risk pool. Time and again as we shopped for new coverage we were denied by insurance companies due to pre-existing health conditions. The ACA changed all of that.
I wrote back then that our legislators needed to work on the law to improve it & encourage participation. What they did instead was to act like children, stage protest votes to repeal the law, and thwart its implementation at every turn. Instead of conducting political stunts, they should’ve rolled up their sleeves and worked to improve it together.
Today our national leaders are poised to repeal the ACA, and I can’t help thinking it seems more like politics than governing. Republican leaders are promising a plan that will provide the same coverage for cheaper prices. I am dubious, especially because they plan to remove so much money from the system by giving tax cuts to billionaires (the slight tax increase on billionaires pays for those who get subsidies. The subsidy was incredibly important for us in that first year, and it is vital to so many millions who live on the margins). If Republican leaders are dead set on repealing, I can certainly get on board as long as they produce a plan that actually solves the problems with the ACA. As of now we have seen no plan whatsoever. We need to see their plan before they simply repeal a law that has helped millions of us. This isn’t a political question for me. This is about how my family gets coverage.
Here’s what I wrote back then:
05 DEC 2013—Kansas City
My name is Tim Suttle. I’m married with two children under the age of ten, and I’m a pastor of a small church in the Kansas City area.
Last summer my family received a letter telling us that our insurance provider was canceling our policy because it would not meet the minimum standards set forth by the ACA when it goes into effect in 2014. At first we were surprised and a little bit alarmed. It only took us about two minutes to remember that our insurance was terrible. It had no co-pay. We pay everything up to $3k for each individual member of our family – essentially a hefty monthly charge for the privilege of having the insurance company (who shall remain nameless), negotiate lower fees.
I know that some people are pretty upset about losing their insurance plan. But our policy was being cancelled because it was not fair insurance. It was a mercy killing. Or at least we thought so at first. Then we started shopping for new plans.
We found several good private options and began to apply. Every time we went through underwriting we were denied because of pre-existing health conditions. My wife even went through the appeals process at one carrier, getting special letters from doctors to help our case. Again, we were denied due to pre-existing conditions. After a few months of trying several providers, we realized that we couldn’t get insurance.
Before the ACA, our only option was to split our family into insurable, and un-insurable groups, buy a policy for the insurable group, and then go into the Kansas high-risk health insurance pool – policies that are expensive and not very good. Instead we realized that we are perfect candidates to go on the local exchange that should have been created by our state as part of the ACA… only our state didn’t create an exchange. Our state has been attempting to thwart the implementation of the ACA from day one.
Nevertheless we waited for healthcare.gov to go live and began the process. At first we had little luck with the site. We could get further in the process than some people, but this website was pretty hopelessly broken. My wife made a few phone calls, always found answers to her questions, or got calls back with answers later on.
So we waited a little while. My wife kept gathering information, reading updates, making sure she compiled all of the right information. Then a few days before Thanksgiving, she sat down to apply again. She made it through the entire process in the course of a couple of hours. We were signed up. Within a few days we had our conformation in hand.
When the documentation came, we still had a few questions. The toll free numbers worked, the representatives were helpful. Sometimes they ran our questions straight up to a supervisor. If they had to call us back with an answer they did so promptly. Our case was far from simple. We have kind of an odd situation, as do many of those who need this coverage. But everyone we dealt with was pleasant, patient, hard working, and in the end, quite efficient.
End result? We have health coverage that is significantly cheaper than we had before, and much better quality.
I know the ACA isn’t perfect. Many people are opposed to it because they think it is a bad idea. I also know that many are opposed to it it simply because it’s an Obama idea, and it’s a political thing. I know that for years our representatives will have to work out the kinks, and we still have a long way to go. But my family really needed this to work. We were in a bind. I wrote this in order tell our story, and to say that the ACA worked for us, and we really needed it to work. I’m feeling thankful today for the ACA, and for all of those who are working so hard to make it happen. What you are doing is important. Keep up the good work.