Justine left this in our inbox yesterday:
I am twenty-one years old and just graduated with a degree in biology from a top-ranked college in Massachusetts. In most cases, this would seem to be a reason for delight, but for the past few weeks, I’ve been full of anxiety. Here’s why.
I come from a lower-middle-class Irish Catholic family. My parents have both worked for their entire lives, and my father still has a job that requires being on his feet for over six hours a day, even though he’s in his sixties. We all volunteer to help our community and belong to the same church that we have attended since I was a toddler. We have a tight-knit extended kin and many close friends. I’d like to think that we are the model family that Republicans seem to bring up so often—decent, hard-working, honest folks who are just trying to get by. There’s just one thing that separates us from this happy, smiling ideal: I am very sick.
When I was in middle school, I began to sleep for eighteen hours a day. My body seemed incapable of moving itself. I lost so much weight that I was a walking corpse. I could no longer attend school. My nose would begin spontaneously bleeding throughout the day, and my ears would leak a strange fluid. Then the vomiting, bloody urine, and hallucinations started. I was rushed to the hospital and, after several weeks of testing, was diagnosed with a rare form of vasculitis. The cause of the disease is unknown. The only treatment available can beat the disease into remission, but it cannot eliminate it entirely. Most people with this illness relapse at multiple points—often in extremely dangerous ways. The disease permanently scarred my kidneys, nose, and ears, but after years of horrible treatments with disgusting side effects, I was officially declared in remission.
I was able to afford the best medicine and see the best doctors because my father has a great health insurance plan from his employer. But we all know that you can’t stay on your parents’ healthcare plans forever, and until “Obamacare” was passed, I was looking at a situation where I’d be either forced to go to graduate school immediately—which I neither want nor can I afford—or removed from their plan when I turned 21. This sent me into an absolute panic. I am the walking definition of “pre-existing condition”. No insurer would want to cover me. And that’s assuming that I could even get a job with a healthcare plan in the first place. I’m a college-aged kid looking at entry-level positions. Full health benefits are usually not part of that package. What would happen to me if I suddenly got sick right after graduating? What if I relapsed and needed to pay for my $2000-a-bottle immunosuppressants on my own? What if I had to be admitted to the hospital again? How could I get access to doctors with expertise on my condition? I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost over these questions. College students have enough to worry about without contemplating about whether or not they’ll be going into medical bankruptcy in the near future, but that is what the healthcare system in this country forced me to do.
But thanks to the President’s healthcare law, I can stay on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26. That means that I can look for an entry-level job without worrying about getting healthcare right away. I’ll need it eventually, yes, and I will happily pay for it. But right now, it’s a load off my mind, and I’m thankful for it. I’m especially thankful that when the time comes to get my own insurance, companies cannot deny me coverage just because I have a chronic illness. The dread crept back in the past month or so as I awaited the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the healthcare law. Had the Justices struck down the entire act, I would be in a nightmare scenario: no insurance and no way to get insurance. The sigh of relief that I exhaled when I heard that the act was held up as constitutional can’t be overstated.
I am a hard-working American. I want to contribute to our country. I want to be a scientist and research the same condition that I am afflicted with. But I need to survive in order to do that, and I need to have insurance to survive. I am grateful for President Obama’s healthcare bill. My heart breaks when I think of all those young people with chronic illnesses who were forced off of their parents’ insurance plans and cruelly denied coverage for the sin of having a disease. And I am even more grateful for the fact that I won’t be one of them.
Why does Obamacare matter to you?