Our growing family and the Affordable Care Act

Apr. 26, 2014 @ 11:46 AM

As a self-employed woman in the process of starting a family, I have been personally affected by the Affordable Care Act. When I left the comfort of a large university-affiliated hospital system in 2013 to start my own psychiatry practice, I was excited to set out on my own. But that enthusiasm was short lived when I realized the full cost of paying for my own health insurance.

When I shopped for plans before the Affordable Care Act took effect, I pored over the pros and cons of my private options. The problem was that none of the plans that offered the coverage I needed was affordable, and none of the affordable plans offered much besides “catastrophic” care -- valuable coverage in case of an unexpected emergency, but otherwise useless. I could have joined my husband’s plan, but to obtain a similar level of coverage as had been provided by my old employer, we were looking at a monthly bill of approximately $700.

We ended up settling for one of the low-cost “catastrophic” plans that would not provide me with the comprehensive coverage that I badly needed as I embarked on my dream of becoming a mom. I paid out of pocket for every doctor’s visit, and pinched every penny when it came to care I needed -- even delaying a recommended biopsy, feeling that the price tag was just too high.

For my husband and me, the Affordable Care Act became a reason for hope. I followed the news closely, knowing that open enrollment would begin in October last year, but I was not sure what types of premiums to expect. After riding out the initial delays with the HealthCare.gov website, I was thrilled to successfully log on and submit my Marketplace application.  

Let me tell you, it was worth the wait. I found Platinum coverage that included maternity care, for less than $400 a month without any subsidy. That’s savings of over $300 a month compared to what I was quoted for similar coverage just months prior. I couldn’t wait to enroll.

Since January 1, I have enjoyed the security that has come with my new plan. But securing affordable coverage is not the real happy ending of our story. My husband and I are expecting our first child in May. It’s hard to describe the feeling of relief in handing my insurance card over at each visit, not dreading or postponing needed lab work and knowing that our baby’s birth will not cause financial anxiety. I’m so grateful for the Affordable Care Act and the new health insurance marketplace.

What I’ve heard concerning the health reform law is disturbing. The pervasive misinformation around “Obamacare” is astounding when you consider just how beneficial coverage can be for families like mine. I desperately want others in my community to know that this law could really help you or someone you know. That’s why I signed up as a volunteer for Get Covered America because of my passion for spreading the word about these benefits.

Talking with our neighbors in Durham has been energizing and others are continuing to come forward to spread the good news about the ACA. I’m heartened to know that more than 8 million Americans -- including over 200,000 North Carolinians -- signed up during this first open enrollment period, but there are many more in this state who still lack quality, affordable health care.

Even though open enrollment for coverage this year is now closed, folks will have another chance to sign up come this November for coverage in next year. In the meantime, some may be eligible for the special enrollment period that is available throughout the year for those with life changing events like childbirth, adoption, marriage, losing your job, turning 26, graduating from college (if you won’t stay on your parents’ plan), or moving. If you think you may qualify for one of those events, take action now by learning more at GetCoveredAmerica.org and then going to HealthCare.Gov to determine your eligibility. I look forward to seeing even more Americans benefiting from new access to affordable health care coverage. I can tell you it’s changed our lives for the better. 

Rebecca Adia Kuhns is a medical doctor and has a masters of science degree in public health. She lives in Durham.