Jan. 1 is always a big day. It’s a chance to take stock and get a fresh start. This year, Jan. 1 was an even bigger deal. That’s because it was the day that several major Affordable Care Act (ACA) changes went into place, and it was the first day that people could get coverage through health plans purchased under the ACA.
Yes, we know the rollout hasn’t been smooth, but we’ve been working hard to help even out the wrinkles and make sure that those who need affordable health coverage can get it. Since October, we’ve been working with partner organizations to help enroll people for health coverage through the Marketplace on healthcare.gov. To show that it does work, we’ll be introducing you to some of these people we’ve helped get covered.
Meet Rhu McBee
One of the big benefits of the Affordable Care Act is that people can no longer be denied coverage for things like pre-existing conditions – basically, having been sick before. In New Hampshire, people denied due to pre-existing conditions could only get coverage through something called the New Hampshire Health Plan, a high-risk pool.
Until now, Rhu McBee had to buy her health coverage through the high-risk pool because she’d been denied for pre-existing health problems. With her husband Burrett on Medicare, she was paying a premium of $625 a month for a plan with a $10,000 deductible through the high-risk pool. That was coverage more for “a catastrophic situation but not something that allows you to go to a doctor,” said Burrett McBee, an adjunct professor at Plymouth State University and an SEA member.
With help from Joe Cicirelli, an SEA field activities coordinator and certified application counselor, Rhu and Burrett picked a “bronze” level plan that cuts their premium and deductible in half. Anthem provides the coverage, which Rhu noted was one of the companies that previously denied her coverage.
“It saves us hundreds of dollars a month and leaves me more inclined to go to the doctor for preventive care,” Rhu said. Preventive care, if you weren’t aware, is free under most insurance plans and includes various screenings, vaccinations and help with things like quitting smoking.
She said she still won’t go rushing to the doctor for minor things, but having better coverage will take some of the fear out of daily life. That fear of getting sick or hurt is something the uninsured, or underinsured as Rhu was, know all too well.
“When Burrett and I had been totally covered by health care, it never dawned on us how much it cost and how secure we felt without realizing it,” Rhu said. “When we first lost our health insurance, I went to a doctor, paid $200 for the visit and it started to click. The doctor sent me for some tests, and I had a couple X-rays and a CT scan, and I was billed thousands of dollars. I did not fully realize the enormous price tag connected with health care until we had the entire burden.”
Rhu and Burrett are big supporters of the Affordable Care Act, and campaigned for President Obama last year to make sure it remained in place. The cause is important to them because they’ve seen how damaging the lack of insurance can be. Rhu pointed to her daughter’s boyfriend, who had developed a spot on his leg. He was attending graduate school and had no health coverage of his own; at age 29, he had long since aged out of his parents’ coverage.
Rhu said her daughter urged her boyfriend to seek treatment, but he was wary of being stuck with huge bills. In March 2012, he died of what was found to be a treatable melanoma.
Rhu said it was painful knowing that he didn’t have to die, and she thought the insurance coverage available through the Affordable Care Act would help others like him.
“I firmly believe this is a huge step forward for America,” Rhu said. “It frees people up to pursue their lives. There is not a person who knows me or my husband who would call us burdens on society or moochers. People need to get the negative idea about uninsured people out of their heads.”
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, people like the McBees are getting good, affordable health coverage. We look forward to sharing more success stories with you.