Op-Ed: The Affordable Care Act Saved My Life

For Abby Schanfield, born with a rare disorder, Obamacare isn’t just healthcare reform. It’s personal.
Abby was invited to sit with First Lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address in February 2013 as the First Lady's guest. She's pictured here in front of the White House shortly before the address on February 12, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Abby Schanfield)
Feb 20, 2013· 3 MIN READ

Picture this: You are 21 years old. You are a recent college graduate from a large, Big 10 research university in the Midwest. Perhaps you graduated with a bachelor of arts in, say, political science. Outside of work and school, you’re active in your community, and love to ride your bicycle, hang out with friends, and attend concerts, art openings, and theater productions. You’re young, with big dreams—varying from traveling the world to finding your dream job. As a citizen of the wealthiest nation on Earth, the world is, in many ways, your oyster.

Or is it?

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Say, in a theoretical world, you were born with a rare, congenital form of a parasitic disease. You have been very lucky, as many people born with this chronic disease have severe intellectual and physical disabilities; you were not born with many of the most profound side effects and live a fairly normal life. However, you do have several related health complications and therefore, have what are called “pre-existing conditions”—excluding you from virtually every health insurance plan that would provide you with quality care.

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When you turn 21, you lose access to your parents’ private health insurance plan. You have nowhere to turn, as your life has a price tag. A price tag that is too high to ensure you will live to fulfill your dreams. The reality is, you will probably die or have a major decline in quality of life now that you do not have access to care. At this point, survival is your main concern.

Can you imagine facing your own mortality at 21? I can. That story, as you’ve probably guessed, is my own, and for me the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, and then upheld by the Supreme Court, just in the nick of time. The Affordable Care Act in many ways saved my life.

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By the time President Obama was elected to office, it was clear health reform was necessary if we as a nation intended to survive, both literally and financially. In my opinion, the law is far from perfect, but it is an enormous step in the right direction toward making sure that the nearly 50 million Americans who were uninsured have a healthier and more stable future.

The Affordable Care Act also offers the opportunity to expand care to Americans in poverty, and eliminates immoral exemption clauses for people like me who have pre-existing conditions or who may, due to our numerous hospitalizations, out-spend our annual or lifetime limits. As young people, or for those Americans without chronic illnesses, it is hard to see how this law will help you; it is far easier to see it as a burden or to fall prey to politicized misinformation.

Here are some facts:

1. The Affordable Care Act is NOT a government takeover. The ACA enhances employer-based and private health insurance options, expanding care through new protections, subsidies, and choice. There is no government-sponsored plan currently available.

2. Since September 2010, over 3.1 million young people have gained access to health insurance through the provision allowing for young adults to stay on their parents plan until age 26. That means even if you are healthy, you have avoided having to pay premiums each month, allowing you to get stable footing before incurring healthcare costs.

3. More preventive care services are free!

4. The Affordable Care Act impacts people with employer-based coverage. The law increases incentives for employers to provide higher-quality coverage to their employees. It also allows for people to choose their primary care provider, have greater access to out-of-network care in an emergency, and offers protections against unfair increases in premiums.

What do you think about the ACA? How do you get health insurance — or do you go without?

Abby Schanfield is a 21-year-old from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She graduated in December 2012 from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in political science, and a minor in social justice. Abby was influenced by her experiences growing up with a chronic illness, and the privileges that come with being insured. She hopes to work in public policy, focusing on women’s health and community health. She is a member of TakeAction Minnesota’s healthcare team, which is a grassroots organization that advocates for progressive policies ranging from healthcare to economic reform. TakePart.com

These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.