Autostraddle’s Staff Shares Their Stories About Why We Need to #SaveTheACA

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Almost since the day it was passed into law, Republicans have been doing their best to weaken, hinder, block, and debilitate the Affordable Care Act in place of being able to outright repeal it. Now, with a majority vote in both the House and Senate and a president who will sign off on anything, whether he’s able to understand what it is he’s passing into law or not, we’re at risk of losing the Affordable Care Act entirely; the first steps, a budget resolution that doesn’t change any laws but lays the groundwork too, has already passed. What’s more, they’re hoping to defund Planned Parenthood in the process, meaning that low-income people who rely on the services of Planned Parenthood for routine and preventative care like mammograms and testing will be left out in the cold. We could be returned not only to the days before the ACA, but to something even worse with even fewer options.The Republicans have yet to come up with a replacement for the ACA but want to repeal it anyway,

This won’t happen immediately — even with a Republican majority, our government is still pretty convoluted, and bills for both the repeal and replacement still need to be drafted and voted on. If you are covered under the ACA, you’re still good for at least a year, regardless of what happens.

Autostraddle’s staff are just a few examples of how, imperfect as it is, the Affordable Care Act has and still is saving lives and helping people stay healthy who would otherwise be left without options. Even just this small sampling — not even everyone on our small staff has shared here how the ACA has impacted them! — it’s clear that losing this legislation would completely derail the course of many people’s lives, as well as the future of small businesses and the work of artists and activists. It’s crucial that we use the time we have before a repeal is voted on to organize, locally and nationally, and force our elected representatives to #SaveTheACA.

Mey, Trans Editor and Music Editor

I am a trans woman who has epilepsy and clinical depression. I need to take ten prescription pills a day. I also go to weekly therapy to help with my depression and suicidal ideation. Because of my many medications, I need to regularly get lab work done. That is a lot of medical bills. I would not be able to afford any of that without the ACA. It’s literally been keeping me alive these past few years. And I say that with no hyperbole or misuse of the word literally. The Affordable Care Act (along with family and friends who love and support me) is the reason I’m not dead and the reason I can write and honestly, the reason I can be myself.

Karly, Intern

I was very supportive of ACA when it passed, even though I didn’t need it personally. First, my mom is a breast cancer survivor. She had a year-long treatment and then several checkups, as well as other diagnoses due to the harsh side effects of chemotherapy. She is a frequent user of our health care system, and has pre-existing conditions. I was relieved that if she wanted to change coverage, she wouldn’t be rejected because of that. Even though at the time I was under my parents’ insurance and I’m on a plan through my university now – I was able to stay on my parents’ until age 26. I was working as a shift supervisor for a bookstore and the thought of paying monthly premiums struck me with fear, but I could purchase “bronze” level coverage because I’m young and healthy and don’t need much healthcare. I know now that the ACA is structured to give the sick and older (like my mom) more help than the healthy, young people who don’t need medical care often (like me). The Republicans’ plans suggested are opposite in nature: they emphasize insuring young, healthy people who won’t use the healthcare system in order to save money, rather than prioritize older, sicker people. It’s important to remember that, because it’s contrary to the entire premise of the ACA and horrible. That’s why we should save the ACA.

Carrie, Staff Writer

Before the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies could have taken one look at me and said “thanks but no thanks.” Because the rumors are true: having cerebral palsy (AKA a preexisting condition) is damn expensive. Orthotics, physical therapy, and surgeries have a way of running up your bill, and for me they are also facts of life. I shouldn’t walk further than my own backyard without my braces on — so forget about getting to work on time, running errands, or leading any sort of independent social life if they’re not available. The surgeries are the real kicker, though. I really learned the value of health insurance when my spinal surgery in college — done on an emergency schedule and without which I wouldn’t be writing to you now — cost my family a few hundred bucks rather than the tens of thousands it could have. Forgoing insurance isn’t an option for me, period. There’s too much going on in my medical record to ever risk it.

Though I’m now on employer-based healthcare (which, by the way, is still affected by Obamacare’s preexisting condition provision — if that part vanishes, I could be in for a world of hurt regardless of who my insurer is), I spent two years getting coverage through the ACA. Buying my own health insurance is what made me feel like an adult for the first time. And because of that insurance, I could build the career I have now. There is absolutely no way I would be doing my current work, or possibly even involved in the disability community at all, if not for the time I spent on Obamacare. And I’m a relatively uncomplicated and cheap case; it cannot be overstated how vital the ACA is to disabled folks around the country, and how much danger we will immediately be in without it. My mom has admitted that she lost sleep worrying about my insurance coverage before the ACA, and that anxiety is all too real for so many disabled people and our families. Obamacare turned me from a liability into a full citizen worth protecting, and to see it roll backward instead of march forward would be a stain on our national history and an immediate threat to countless people who deserve the same rights and opportunities as our nondisabled peers.

Erin, Staff Writer

My plan on the ACA relied heavily on the monthly credit I received due to being a poor freelancer! I used it primarily for prescriptions, and because those are regulating what will now be considered pre-existing conditions, I’m out. I love this crazy/beautiful life!

Cecelia, Staff Writer

I haven’t taken advantage of the healthcare marketplace yet because I’m lucky enough to be covered by my parents insurance until I’m 26, which is also a provision of the ACA. But if the ACA goes away, I’m totally fucked. The ACA gave me the ability to plan my future around centering activism, art and community. Without the ACA, I have to start planning for a future in which I’ll have to center my life around a career that provides benefits, which will require me to shift my focus to meaningfully contributing to institutions and capitalism. Making that career choice would give me less time to fix this world we’ve inherited and take care of the people who live in it. The reality is that I’m going to continue to live my radical life anyway. This means that eventually I won’t be able to take care of myself when I need medical help. And if I can’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my community. The consequences of this sort of thing happening on a generational level are deeply urgent. We need to be able to take care of ourselves to continue doing the work we do, so we need the ACA.

Heather, Senior Editor

I spent most of my professional life working in accounting and office management, and with the exception of the very first (giant) corporation I worked for in college, I have never been offered health insurance through an employer. I worked for small businesses, family-run companies that were built by hard-working rural Georgians. And when I wasn’t doing the accounting or office managing part of my job, I would often go back to the warehouses to help assemble things or drive the forklift (OSHA certified, thank you very much!) or package stuff for shipment.

If I wanted health insurance I had to pay for it myself. If I wanted maternity coverage I had to pay extra. So it wasn’t a huge leap for me, health insurance-wise, when I left the world of accounting to become a writer and editor. (One of the lies the GOP has perpetuated about the ACA is it’s for people who don’t work or for starving artist-types who don’t want to get a “real” job.) The only health insurance I could ever afford were catastrophic plans that basically ensured that I wouldn’t go bankrupt if I got into some kind an accident. But if I actually wanted to go see a doctor, the deductible was so high I was just paying out of my pocket. I had a series of heart issues (that were actually anxiety issues) in my late 20s and the mandated stress test from my family physician cost me $6,000. In addition to that, I changed insurance every year because I always needed to go with the cheapest plan available to me, and every time I changed plans I dragged my pre-existing conditions with me.

Now I’m able to buy insurance through the New York Health Exchange. Based on my income, I get around $200 a month as a pre-tax subsidy, which is applied directly to my insurance bill, which is around $500 per month. An ACA subsidy is based on your income and the average cost of a silver level plan. So while I’m paying about $300 a month out of my pocket for insurance, it’s good insurance! The deductible is manageable and so are my out of pocket expenses. I can have regular check-ups and screenings (which is important because my mother had breast cancer, my sister had thyroid cancer, and congestive heart failure runs in my family). And this year, after a lot of dismissal and misdiagnosis, I’m finally going to be able to get treated for some health issues that have been plaguing me for almost 14 years.

Anyway you shake it down, if the ACA goes away and with it the pre-existing conditions clause, I’m going to be back to having barely catastrophic insurance coverage.

Laneia, Executive Editor

I signed up my family of three — me and two kids — for the ACA as soon as it was available. I’d gone without health insurance for years and they’d recently lost insurance after their dad quit his full-time job. No health insurance meant that when I broke my foot in Palm Springs, I couldn’t do anything about it. It also meant paying full price (around $80 a month) for generic anti-depressants after paying full price ($125) for an office visit to obtain that prescription, which literally saved my life. It meant taking the kids to the CVS Minute Clinic when they had sever sinus infections because that was a flat-rate service and the people working there didn’t make me feel like shit for not having insurance. Not having health insurance also meant that it actually made the most sense for Megan, who I’d just started dating a couple of weeks prior, to voluntarily contract the pinkeye all three of us had so she could use her insurance to get a prescription for antibiotic eye drops and convince the doctor to prescribe her two of them, which we all shared.

That is beyond ridiculous.

Megan and I are married now (thanks Obama!), so all four of us are on an insurance plan offered through her employer. My prescriptions cost a measly $15 a month and I feel like I’m robbing the place every time I pick them up. When a kid is sick, we load ’em up and drive to our general practitioner, knowing the care we receive be affordable, compassionate and competent. I feel more in control of our health, and therefore our lives, than I ever have.

Last summer, Megan decided she was serious about starting a career in healthcare. She was hoping to go back to school full-time, which would mean quitting her current job and obviously losing that health insurance. This felt doable at the time — money would be beyond tight, but we’d fall back on the ACA and make it work. Now we’re reevaluating everything. Without the ACA, she most likely won’t be able to quit her job to go to school and pursue her dreams. That is a crushing reality, one that affects the entirety of all of our lives — even the lives of future generations of our family. Without the ACA, she’s stuck. We’re stuck.

Riese, CEO and Editor-in-Chief

Autostraddle’s six full-time employees live in five different states, making it impossible for us to offer health insurance, as bulk-priced employer plans require employers to have more than one employee in a given state in order to qualify. The Affordable Care Act is crucial to our survival, as it enables our employees to easily obtain health insurance independently of their employer. (And I do offer to reimburse our full-time employees for their monthly ACA premiums if they need it.) Almost all our full-timers are insured through their partners’ employers, but some of us do use Obamacare. Freelancers in general — which means “most of our writers” — also often rely on the ACA to survive. A repeal would be yet ANOTHER huge blow to independent publications like ours that can’t offer the same rates big corporate websites can. I was on Medicaid when I lived in New York, which was free but required some creative accounting (namely, not depositing my mostly-cash income to the bank). When I moved to Oakland, I was able to get on a similar program there for low-income residents, but I could only see doctors or fill prescriptions at one specific hospital. Finally, in 2012, I was able to get on my then-girlfriend’s health insurance, through her employer, by filling out a domestic partnership affidavit. I somehow managed to remain on her health insurance for two years after our breakup, up until October, when she was laid off. This meant the ACA became my only option for insurance. So far, my experience with it has been, honestly, really awful and ridiculously expensive, but I still feel its existence is imperative to the ongoing existence of our business because of its impact on the actual health and financial health of our employees, contractors, freelancers and customers. 33% of our American readership makes under $35k a year, which means if they are insured via the ACA, they receive premium subsidies, and it’s possible those subsidies could be the difference between them being able to attend A-Camp and/or join A+, or not.

So, like I said, my own experience with the healthcare marketplace has been pretty lousy, but I know without the ACA, it would’ve been even harder to find a healthcare plan to begin with. I have pre-existing conditions and I’ve been uninsured a lot throughout my life because I’ve never had a full-time salary job or employer health care, and Medicaid was my only option for coverage that cost less than $800/month.

I feel it’s important to explain why my experience with the marketplace has been lousy, so here goes: I had to sign up in October, when my ex-ex-girlfriend was laid off, thus meaning I was paying a hefty premium ($311/month) BUT no benefits had kicked in yet because I’d yet to pay off my $2k deductible. But the deductible resets at the end of the year, meaning I was paying out-of-pocket for all medical services AND paying my premium for the last three months of the year. Then, because is a shitshow that never works, I somehow managed to get dropped from my insurance for 2017 due to essentially a technical glitch on the website. So, now I won’t be covered until February, meaning I had to cancel therapy for the month, which I can’t afford out of pocket if it’s not going towards my deductible (which has gone up to $2.5k from $2k since 2016), my monthly medications cost nearly $250, and the out-of-pocket cost of the psychiatrist appointment I attended prior to knowing I’d been dropped won’t go towards my deductible! AND YET I STILL KNOW THAT THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IS OUR BEST POSSIBLE OPTION!

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  1. It makes zero sense that key issues like healthcare remain major problems in the U.S. when other countries have figured out preferable approaches. When I lived in England for 13 years, the NHS was much maligned, but moving to the U.S. was a huge wake-up call for me. The NHS isn’t perfect, but damn.

    In terms of education (off-topic but works to support my point), it’s my understanding that Germany offers free higher education for not only German citizens but also international students, using a mix of corporate funding and taxes. Meanwhile, a year of higher education in the U.S. can cost American citizens $40k, $50k, and even $60k at some institutions.

    In many instances, other countries are doing it better, whether “it” is healthcare or education or something else. There is a slew of both hard data and anecdotal evidence that SHOWS this, but our legislators either refuse to take cues from these approaches or face an uphill battle if they do. As someone mentioned above, the ACA would be more affordable, comprehensive, and effective if the Republican majority hadn’t fought tooth and nail throughout the process of getting it passed. What eventually passed into law was a watered-down version of the plan. Fortunately, a lot of people still benefit from it, but many are paying more than they should or face restrictions they shouldn’t have to deal with.

    I get that it’s not possible to directly “cut and paste” one country’s approach onto another country, but pre-ACA, my hairstylist/writer friend had to set and heal his broken leg himself because he didn’t qualify for insurance and couldn’t pay for healthcare out of pocket. That’s not OK. That should never have happened. It should never happen again.

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