Guest column: My good experience with Affordable Care Act

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Guest commentary

When I retired earlier this year, I was prepared to pay for my own medical insurance even though I expected the premiums would be high. What I was not prepared for was being denied coverage by every carrier I contacted.

I am a two-time cancer survivor and although I have been healthy for almost five years, the insurance companies all require an eight- to 10-year wait period for people who, like me, have had advanced cancer.

I was fortunate to be able to use my COBRA benefits to retain the insurance plan I had with my former employer. However, this coverage ended on Nov. 3, after which time I found myself ineligible for any adequate medical coverage. I will not be eligible for Medicare until January 2016.

Without the ability to secure health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I would be without insurance for more than two years.

In the best-case scenario, either my husband or I could find a job that would provide us with health insurance. In the worst-case scenario, a major illness could wipe out everything we have worked for all our lives.

I have watched the drama around Obamacare unfold over the course of the last two years and tried to remain positive that it would not be defeated by those who wanted to see it shot down.

I had opened an account long before the HealthCare.gov website went live on Oct. 1. I was not able to access my account, so I called the help line. The phone center employee took my application over the phone; the whole process took less than an hour. I called two or three more times while I was evaluating which plan best fit our needs. Everyone I spoke with was helpful and knowledgeable.

It was during one of these calls that I learned that all the existing accounts had their passwords turned off when enrollment went live on Oct. 1. With this information, I was able to access my account and have not had any trouble since then.

After two weeks of deliberation over which plan to choose, I applied online for coverage for me and my husband. The first month’s premium was paid over the phone and we will be entering 2014 with good medical coverage and little risk to our life savings.

Without Obamacare, the stress associated with lack of insurance and the temptation to forgo preventive care and diagnostic procedures due to cost would almost certainly have increased my risk of serious illness over the next two years. A likely outcome would have been increased use of the health care system once I am covered by Medicare. It makes sense for me to pay insurance premiums and receive care aimed at helping me stay healthy rather than waiting to treat disease at the government’s expense.

The Founding Fathers could not have foreseen that the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” might someday be limited to those whom the insurance companies deemed fit to receive adequate health care. I have a deep and abiding love for my country and I am glad I am alive to see this evolution in our health care system. It is far from perfect, but with the new law it is one step closer to working for everyone.

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