What “Obamacare” Actually Means To Me


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By Jay Kirell

I can’t decide if I love or hate the term “Obamacare.”

On one hand, the Republicans coined the term to deride the actual law – known as the Affordable Care Act – with the intention of making it scary-sounding.  The hope was people would think it meant Obama – as the head of the massive institution known as the federal government – was providing free healthcare with taxpayer money.

On the other hand, there is the reality of what the Affordable Care Act actually is – and even when it gets called “Obamacare” by supporters and the President himself, it’s meant as a term of endearment – to show that the President himself cares enough about health care for all Americans he created a new law to make sure they all have access to it.

Basically, depending on who’s speaking, the term “Obamacare” irritates or amuses me.

As for the actual – you know – law itself, I absolutely love it.

Is it perfect?  Nope.

Is it what I would have written up if I could draft my own version of the Affordable Care Act?  Not at all.

Is it something that will allow my wife to see a doctor for the first time since we got dropped like a stone off our healthcare plan the day I separated from the Army?  Hell yes.

That’s what “Obamacare” means to me.

And when I say “me,” I mean my family.  Personally, I’ll be fine.  I’m a disabled veteran.  I’ll be treated for the rest of my life for my injuries.

My wife, on the other hand, is not as fortunate.  She worked in the private sector.  Ironically, she used to take care of disabled adults.  One day there was an incident and she hurt her back.  Badly.  She struggled on for a while, using up all her sick days and vacation days, until she had to return to work, where she found her back pain too great her for to do her job.

That was five years ago.  It was also during the economic collapse, and she was fired from her job. My wife’s back had only gotten worse since then and while she’s struggled to find and hold employment, she’s had very little success in finding a health insurance company that would accept her as a patient due to her back injury – as well as her being diagnosed with Celiac disease.  She applied for both SSDI and Medicare, and was denied for both.

The only reason my wife is able to even walk upright today is because I was in the military when we got married.  Tricare – the military health care system for dependents – paid for her spinal fusion surgery that corrected the problem in her back.  Five years, 12-inches of scars and months of rehabilitation later, she was actually feeling better.

Tricare covered over $150,000 of the cost of her surgery and recovery.  We paid nothing out of pocket.

She would not have been able to get that life-changing surgery before the government stepped in and helped us.

That surgery occurred only a few months before I separated, while my wife was still on various medications and receiving rehabilitation – which were also covered in full by Tricare.  In May, my wife lost access to all that, including access to doctors who could prescribe her refills.  And she’s been suffering in pain, watching the calendar, counting down the days until she could sign up for – as she calls it – “Obamacare.”

I tried to sign up my wife earlier in the week.  The website kept crashing, as I wrote in an earlier article.  After being down a few days it came back online briefly today, but the New York State health exchange website is still a jumbled mess in need of fixing.

I’ll keep trying to sign my wife up, though.  As I’m sure millions of other struggling Americans are trying to do right now as you read this.  Because when money is tight, the first thing that goes are “luxury” visits to the doctor’s office, as my wife learned first-hand.

So you can call it the Affordable Care Act –  you can call it “Obamacare” with a sneer on your face – it doesn’t matter to me.

As long as it helps the millions of sick, injured, or just plain worried Americans who haven’t been able to afford health insurance in the past, you can call it whatever you want.

Just make sure you call me when the website actually starts working.

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