Annika Neklason | Yes we care


Girl, Interrupting | Despite highly publicized problems, Obamacare is helping millions who have very few options




A little less than five years ago, my dad saved my life by paying out of pocket for a CT scan. While on a family trip to Canada earlier in the summer, I contracted a cold which evolved into a sinus infection which in turn developed complications, spreading outward from my sinuses to my optic nerve and toward my brain. A persistent, weeks-long headache finally sent me home from my second day of high school at the end of August and led my parents to take me to see the doctor, but she was unable tell us what was wrong. Finally, during my third visit in less than a week, she told my dad she’d like to try a CT scan. The problem was that our family’s insurance policy wouldn’t cover it; my symptoms at the time failed to justify the procedure in the eyes of our provider. By then I was sick enough — and my dad desperate enough — that he told her he’d pay.

It was that CT scan that led to my diagnosis. In the days and weeks that followed, that diagnosis translated into the nasal surgery and antibiotic regimen that cured me. Without the CT scan, I likely would have had to undergo an open-cranial procedure, endangering both my long-term neural functioning and my life.

We don’t talk about that time much anymore, but sometimes my dad just sits back and says how grateful he is that we could pay for the scan. With neither coverage nor available funds, he might have decided to wait a little longer, and I might have died.

For the 13.4 percent of Americans still living without health insurance, this kind of decision is constantly looming: to pay out of pocket for expensive medical tests and procedures, or to wait and risk more serious, long-term consequences. With neither the coverage nor the expendable cash I was lucky enough to have access to when I most needed them, those people stand constantly at the brink of severe medical complications, crippling debt or both. Luckily, thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," they now make up a smaller proportion of the population that at any previous time on record.

Since Obamacare was signed into law in 2010, what I’ve heard and read about it has been largely negative. Several states chose to boycott it. House Speaker John Boehner dismissed it with a “#trainwreck.” A number of Republican congressmen set out on impassioned public crusades to repeal it. Healthcare.gov launched, then quickly proceeded to crash and crash and crash again.

For whatever reason, what I haven’t heard about nearly as much is the positive: simply put, the fact that Obamacare is working. During the program’s first period of open enrollment, which ended in late March, more than 7 million Americans signed up for health care coverage via the federal and state exchanges, and another 9 million directly acquired policies from insurance companies. With its original passing, the act extended coverage to 1 million children with pre-existing conditions. Add to those numbers the 3 million young adults now covered by their parents’ plans and 6.5 million adults living below the poverty line newly benefitting from Medicaid expansions; consider the 120 million people whose pre-existing conditions can no longer stand in the way of their enrollment; think of the documented slowing in the rise of national health care costs. When all of those numbers, statistics and realities are considered, the negativity with which the program has been hailed takes on a note of melodrama.

I’m not saying nothing has gone wrong. Between the state boycotts, the botched launch of online exchanges and Republican opposition, the program and the Americans it aims to serve have suffered considerable setbacks.

But what I really want to do is acknowledge everything that’s gone right — all the people that Obamacare is bringing back away from that brink, from that crossroads that I came to in my own small way five years ago that might have killed me.

For that reason, despite the difficulties, you can count me among the 54 percent of Americans who support, or want to expand, Obamacare.

Annika Neklason is a College sophomore from Santa Cruz, Calif., studying English. Her email address is aneklason@gmail.com.

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