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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Affordable Health Insurance Lightens This Bodybuilder’s Burdens

Jenna Temkin

Story Bank Associate

A weight is lifted for Sudan, a bodybuilder, thanks to the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace insurance.

Sudan works as a personal trainer for members of the military and their families at an air force base in Georgia. She loves helping people get in shape and stay healthy, but for many years, Sudan felt that her own health was at risk. Without access to health insurance, Sudan said, “I was running for my life. I couldn’t get sick, so exercising had to be my health insurance.”

Thankfully, after 10 years of being uninsured, Sudan doesn’t have to run anymore. Ever since the marketplace opened in 2013, Sudan has been able to get affordable coverage and stay healthy. 

“I feel like I’ve won the lottery with this health care,” she said.

Sudan gets her dream job, but no health coverage

Sudan started bodybuilding when she was 36 years old. What started off as a hobby became her life-long passion. She has competed in competitions across the country and helps some of her personal training clients do the same. 

Sudan was thrilled to turn her passion into a career by getting a personal training job at the military base in the early 2000’s. Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford the health insurance they offered. Without insurance, Sudan decided that working out and eating right would have to take the place of doctor’s visits and routine preventive care.  

Fortunately, she never got sick. But she always worried about having a mishap at the gym and missing out on crucial preventive care as she entered her 50’s. Sudan’s now-12-year-old son was able to get health insurance through his dad, but Sudan worried about what would happen to him if she fell ill. 

Due to the economic downturn in 2010, Sudan’s 40-hour work week at the military base was cut to 20 hours. Her sudden income reduction forced Sudan and her son to move out of their house. Over the next year, they lost two more homes, which meant they spent some nights sleeping in their car or in hotel rooms. It was an extremely difficult time for Sudan, but ultimately, they were able to find and keep a new home in Georgia. 

“I was fighting for my home, for my car, for my job… but my main fight was for my health,” she said. 

Sudan qualifies for financial assistance in the health insurance marketplace, giving her peace of mind

Sudan felt that everything fell into place once the health insurance marketplace opened. In December of 2013, Sudan logged onto HealthCare.gov. At first, she was baffled by the health insurance jargon on the website. 

“I felt like it was a different language,” she said. But with the help of a HealthCare.gov call center representative, she enrolled in a platinum plan for less than a dollar per month thanks to a premium tax credit. In 2014, Sudan started to catch up on the preventive care she missed over the years. “It was such a huge relief,” she said. “I finally felt comfortable.”

During the second open enrollment period, Sudan was facing a premium increase, so she returned to the marketplace and found a better deal. Throughout 2015, Sudan remained healthy and went to the doctor for routine preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies. 

Sudan has been so happy with her coverage that she encourages her family and friends to sign up, too. When her older sister lost her job and health coverage in Ohio, Sudan encouraged her to find coverage through the marketplace.

Sudan recently called the marketplace to enroll in coverage for the third year in a row. This time, she enrolled her son and herself in a policy and was happy to find that it was still affordable. Now, she has peace of mind knowing that her son will be taken care of.

“I treat this health coverage like it’s gold. After you don’t have something for so long, you treasure it,” she said.

Sudan has been able to treasure and take advantage of all the benefits offered in her health care policy thanks to the assistance of marketplace call center representatives. Like Sudan, health care consumers may feel like their insurance options on the marketplace are written in a foreign language. But call center representatives, along with navigators and in-person assisters, are helping people like Sudan enroll in and understand their health care options. If you have not already, be sure to sign up by January 15 for health coverage that will start on February 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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