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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Affordable Care Act Saved My Future

It only took one night for my financial standing to turn upside down. As a recent college graduate and soon-to-be graduate student, money is scarce and I worry about every dollar I spend. During college, I was fortunate to have two full-ride scholarships and my father's health insurance. After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue my passion and fight for health equity in the United States. I knew that I would be living paycheck to paycheck, but I had saved a couple thousand dollars from a previous job as a safety net and to relocate for graduate school in the fall.

Then one night, I had to go to the emergency room and stay overnight at the hospital. The nurses strongly recommended that I stay an additional night, but I knew that I would not be able to afford it. After hours of persuading them, I was able to leave. At the time, I did not know how much the hospital stay would cost, but I knew that I would not be able to afford more than a couple hundred dollars. I was hit hard with a $7,500 bill from the hospital.

But there's a brighter side to this unfortunate incident. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I'll remain on my father's health insurance plan until my 26th birthday. That means that I'm covered, and I do not have to pay the entire $7,500 bill. In addition, my father's insurance company would normally consider the hospital that I went to as "out of network," meaning that I must pay more for the same services than I would have if I had gone to an "in network" hospital. But, again, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must cover emergency visits as if they were "in network."

After numerous phone calls and visits to my father's insurance company and the hospital, I still don't know how much I will be paying, but I know it will be at least $2,000 out of pocket, which is everything I have left. The thought that I may be paying more than that, which is likely, churns my stomach, but without this coverage, I would be in deep trouble. The Affordable Care Act saved me thousands of dollars and possibly from having to make a choice between attending graduate school or continuing work so I can pay off my medical debt.

A single unexpected health emergency can shift goals, erase dreams, and lead to debt. We need the Affordable Care Act to protect ourselves and our loved ones.