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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This Thanksgiving, the Chabot Family is Thankful for Marketplace Coverage

Jenna Temkin

Story Bank Associate

A few years ago, Audrey Chabot didn’t know whether she would live to celebrate another Thanksgiving with her family. This self-employed pastry chef said she was so sick that she felt like she was “at death’s door.” But this year, as the Chabot family gathers for their Thanksgiving dinner in Maumee, Ohio, they’ll be thanking the Affordable Care Act that their matriarch has a seat at the table. 

Audrey isn’t the only member of the Chabot family who is grateful for the ACA this Thanksgiving. She encouraged her son, Jimmy, and her daughter-in-law to enroll in marketplace coverage that allowed the couple to make plans to start their own family.

Before the ACA, Audrey couldn’t find affordable health insurance

With her husband Jim and son Jimmy, Audrey ran a successful pastry catering business in the Toledo area for years. While Audrey and her husband could afford their private insurance plan’s monthly premium when they started the business, their premium and deductible started to skyrocket by the mid-2000s. The couple couldn’t find a cheaper insurance option, so they were forced to drop their coverage and hope they wouldn’t get sick.


Jimmy and Audrey

Audrey’s husband became eligible for Medicare a few years later, but Audrey was left without a safety net as her health deteriorated. In 2011, Audrey started experiencing severe breathing problems that inhalers and steroid medication couldn’t fix. She became so weak that she stopped working. 

Audrey’s primary care doctor prescribed her a slew of expensive medications, but what she really needed was an appointment with a pulmonologist. She remembers calling every pulmonologist in her area, but no one would see her without insurance. When she became so ill that doctors put her on a 24-hour supply of oxygen, Audrey started to lose hope.

The ACA marketplace opened at a critical time for Audrey. Even though she had a preexisting condition, the ACA protected her from being denied coverage. The ACA’s financial assistance, in the form of a tax credit, made Audrey’s monthly premium affordable. 

The day after she was officially enrolled in a marketplace plan, Audrey made an appointment with the best pulmonologist in her area. Doctors called Audrey the day after the appointment and told her to go the ER immediately. With a hemoglobin level of 6, Audrey was at risk of heart failure. She was ultimately diagnosed with COPD and three bleeding ulcers. 

Thanks to her marketplace insurance, Audrey received the care she needed to restore her hemoglobin levels and stabilize her breathing. Audrey transitioned to Medicare in the fall of 2014, but she says she’ll always be grateful for the marketplace coverage that ensured she made it to 65. 

“Without insurance, I had no diagnosis and no treatment. I would have died,” Audrey said. 

Now, Audrey is a healthy retiree, who enjoys swimming every day during the summer and taking long walks after dinner. “My life is normal again. I’m truly grateful for the ACA,” she said.

Marketplace enrollment became a family affair

Audrey was so thrilled with her marketplace coverage that she encouraged her son to enroll, as well. After the family’s catering business shut down, Jimmy started working as a chef at a local restaurant. Jimmy’s employer-sponsored coverage would have eaten up almost a third of his paycheck, so he and his wife enrolled in her company’s high-deductible policy for a few years. Then her company stopped offering insurance to their employees, and Jimmy and his wife went without coverage for eight months. The young couple had intended to start a family, but being uninsured forced them to put those plans on hold.

At Audrey’s urging, Jimmy and his wife checked out their options on the marketplace. They were ecstatic to learn they qualified for financial assistance to help with the monthly premiums and enrolled in marketplace insurance at the start of 2015. Now that they’re covered by a plan they can afford, they can start thinking about expanding their family. 

“It would have had a huge impact on us financially and our state of mind to be uninsured. As middle-class people, we wouldn’t have had any other insurance option,” Jimmy said.

Just as Audrey encouraged Jimmy and his wife to enroll in health coverage, consider talking with your family members about their health insurance. As you gather around the table to share a meal with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, make sure they know about the options that may be available to them through HealthCare.gov

Enroll by December 15 for coverage beginning January 1, 2016.

This story is part of the Families USA Story Bank— an effort to give a voice to the millions of health care consumers who have been affected by the Affordable Care Act. To share your health care story, go to familiesusa.org/share-your-story

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