Posted on: March 9th, 2017 by Collective Conscience

Coverage, access and non-discrimination protections matter.

Before 2014, I was the archetypal young invincible – abandoning my traditional career path in favor of entrepreneurship, and often without health insurance. My decision to get (or keep) health coverage (or not) was a function of how my startup was performing and my ability or patience to navigate the enrollment process. Frankly, it was an adventurous, but terrifying way to live. There were times that I didn’t see a doctor, unsure how much it might cost if I needed a strep test; there were lengthy periods when I would not fill a prescription, because I didn’t have insurance to cover it. I cut back on hiking, recreational sports, and fitness for fear that one injury could bankrupt me.

There were times that I didn’t see a doctor, unsure how much it might cost… There were lengthy periods when I would not fill a prescription, because I didn’t have insurance to cover it.

But, that changed with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). My business was growing up, and so was I. It was the perfect time to enroll in health insurance through the California marketplace, known as Covered California. Finally, I had access to quality, affordable health insurance. More importantly, now I could get health care.

I was one of the millions of healthy young adults who found plenty of plan options, especially compared to what I had previously purchased (or forgone). And, it just so happened that one of my clients since then has been Out2Enroll — a national initiative to connect LGBTQ people with ACA health coverage. With first-hand knowledge, I have preached the importance of the Affordable Care Act. And, through my work, I have heard and retold story after story of the peace of mind, financial security, and lives saved because of the ACA.

Then last October, I became acutely aware of the critical importance of the ACA. We were working long hours on a project thousands of miles from home; late one night on this extended trip, my boyfriend woke up vomiting, with a severe fever. The fever persisted for two days, despite multiple (and futile) trips to urgent care clinics. When the fever reached its peak at 3 AM on the third night, I desperately called my primary care physician emergency help line.

I was forced to confront all the stigma, potential discrimination, and additional anxiety that being a gay couple needing emergency care produced.

That was the first time I was forced to think about rushing a loved one to the ER. And, beyond my concern for my boyfriend’s well-being, I was forced to confront all the stigma, potential discrimination, and additional anxiety that being a gay couple needing emergency care produced. I didn’t know, for instance, if the nearest hospital, a faith-based facility, in this Southern city would be culturally competent or welcoming. We weren’t in the liberal bubble of D.C. anymore.

Even though I knew that the ACA prohibits discrimination, the reality felt uncertain at best. I knew our rights, I knew how to self-advocate, and I had a significant degree of privilege. Still, at 3 AM, I was paralyzed. I cannot imagine how others with less privilege — or in a more medically vulnerable state—must feel.

Fortunately, my boyfriend got the fluids and medicine he needed without incident, and he made a full recovery. And, thanks to the ACA, he was insured under his father’s policy — which meant his emergency room visit was covered and wouldn’t cause financial ruin or leave him with medical debt for years to come.

This is just one small example — my lived example — of why the ACA matters: because coverage, access and non-discrimination protections matter.

This week, the Republicans in Congress and the Administration have released their “plan,” which, unsurprisingly, is no plan at all. Their alternative will result in less access, fewer benefits, and more uninsured Americans (and they want to proceed without bothering to know what the bill will cost or what the impact of their proposed changes will be on American families). This “plan” would be devastating for young people, for LGBTQ people, and for the approximately 30 million Americans who stand to lose access to quality affordable health coverage and care.

This ‘plan’ would be devastating for young people and LGBTQ people…

Those with preexisting conditions, whether mental health or cancer or asthma, may never be able to access coverage again. And, changes to the law could mean the rollback of significant protections for our trans community, in particular.

As one of the wealthiest nations on earth, we must prioritize health care for the individuals and families that call America home; and we should work together to strengthen, not dismantle, health care.