I have not been a fan of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” ever since it impacted by private health insurance plan in 2013.
Before I explain my experience, I will note that I began having seizures at 21 years old and at 25 years old I was diagnosed with Epilepsy, a serious neurological disorder. Epilepsy is a disability that not only endangers the person who has it, but also endangers others considering a person can have a seizure while driving or operating heavy equipment. It is important that people with Epilepsy have access to medication and health insurance at all times for the safety of themselves and society.
In 2012, when I was 25 years old and living in California, I was able to find an affordable single health insurance plan with help from a health insurance agent. The plan was $75 a month which I considered to be a decent price. It was important that I obtain health insurance because I was having seizures. Note, I had not been diagnosed with Epilepsy at this point in time so I am not sure how the process would have been if I was diagnosed.
The insurance agent helped me fill out the application and within days I was approved for the plan and only had to make a $75 payment to use the insurance to see a neurologist that was a 10 minute drive away from where I was living. The process of registering was very simple. I was able to have tests done, be diagnosed and have medication prescribed within two weeks of registering for the health insurance plan.
Whenever I called the insurance company my questions were answered quickly. I never had a problem getting the information I needed and never had to play phone tag or be tossed between representatives. I received the help I needed and felt secure with my health insurance plan.
However, after the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) began taking full effect in 2013, my health insurance company eliminated my plan and I needed to find a new plan. Since I was working as an independent contractor, I was not compensated health insurance by an employer. I contacted my health insurance agent and asked what other private plans were available. He said the next cheapest plan was $200 a month (!) and the services were the same as my previous $75 a month plan.
$200 a month was way out of my budget so I asked what other health insurance I could obtain as an independent contractor. He said since my income was not high enough to qualify for Covered California, health insurance administered by an independent agency of the government of California, the only other option was to register for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program that serves low-income individuals, which would provide free insurance and medication if I qualified. I preferred a private plan like I originally had, but was basically forced to register for Medi-Cal.
Registering for Medi-Cal in Riverside County, California was a nightmare. For weeks I called the county to register and was often tossed between departments. No one ever seemed to know the answers to my questions. I left messages for representatives who said they would call back, but never did.
I had such a difficult time finding who to talk to that I got my mom involved who is more demanding when speaking on the phone. Thankfully with her help I was finally able to talk to someone who could work with me. I often question what I would have done if my mom wasn’t there to help? How would have registered?
Finally I was registered for Medi-Cal and received documents noting health insurance and medication would be free. While obtaining medication and seeing doctors for free was nice, I never really understood how the plan worked and didn’t know who to call if I had questions. I knew eventually the plan would come to an end but didn’t know when that was. I felt like a lost person at sea, which is not a good feeling when having a disability like Epilepsy.
After a year a notice came in saying I had to renew my Medi-Cal application, which started the bureaucratic mess again. I submitted the renewal application but then received a notice while I was away from home on a trip that the information I provided was not sufficient. The document said I must provide the required information within a week. I missed the deadline and my application was tossed out by the county.
I went to a near-by social service county office to register for Medi-Cal in person because I thought in-person might be more effective. I found the atmosphere of the office to be unpleasant and uncomfortable. This is another set back to Medi-Cal – why should a person feel uncomfortable when registering for something as basic as health insurance? There were strange people lingering in the parking lot and a security guard stood near the entrance as though there was potential danger. Downtrodden people were also inside the office waiting for to be called on the intercom to speak to a representative.
I went to the front desk to inquire about my application and the woman said it had been thrown out because of a missed deadline and there was nothing she could do. She handed me a large packet to fill out to re-start the application. I sat down and filled out most of it and then went up to a representative when my name was called on the intercom. The woman told me I had to still fill out more, which would have probably taken another half hour. She mentioned I could do everything online which would be faster. I decided to just go home and do the online process. The experience at the office was impersonal and not of much help.
I restarted the application online and came to a point where I was asked about taxes. I selected one of the options and submitted the application, but then received a notice in the mail a few days later that my application was denied because I did not provide adequate tax information!
Let me remind you, I am a person with Epilepsy, a very serious health problem that is not only a danger to myself but a potential danger to others! It is important that I have health insurance!
I am now in the process to obtain tax information needed to complete the application which is taking even more time for me to obtain health insurance.Thankfully because of a personal connection I am able to obtain medication, otherwise I would be stranded without medication which could trigger seizures again. And believe me, a grand mal seizure is the last thing I and anyone else wants.
I cannot believe the government would establish a health care system that would lead private health insurance companies to eliminate their affordable plans. The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) has put Americans in danger! Obama himself apologized for this!
Lauren Ell is an American blogger born and raised in Southern California and is currently based in Sweden. She discusses Epilepsy, Politics and Fun. Professionally Ell is an Online Marketing Consultant and Virtual Assistant. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.