Graphic via Shutterstock Health care reform
Graphic via Shutterstock

Ten years ago, the most significant healthcare reform bill was signed into law. Four Americans share how their lives have since been changed.

On this day 10 years ago, President Obama signed one of the most significant healthcare reform bills into law, ensuring more people could see a doctor if they needed. Since then, the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to more than 20 million Americans and saved thousands of lives

These four Americans who received coverage under the healthcare law share how it changed their lives.

Paul Gibbs, 45, West Valley City, Utah

The ACA has been like a gift from God to my family and me. I was diagnosed with end stage kidney failure at the end of 2008, and had a transplant in 2009. Medicaid and Medicare made the transplant possible, but without the ACA, that transplanted kidney would be designated as a pre-existing condition and I would never have been able to get insurance coverage for the medications I have to take every day for the rest of my life. Those medications would cost as much per month as my mortgage, and if I miss a day or two I lose my kidney.

Thanks to those ACA protections, I’m still here almost 11 years later, and have two sons, Timmy, who is four and Peter, who is one year old. Without the ACA, they never would have had the chance to be born, because I wouldn’t be here. And the one-year-old was also born with a kidney condition, so if we lose the ACA he could become uninsurable for life. The ACA gave me my life and my family, and it’s like the Trump administration is trying to take away both.

Peter Morley, 50, New York City, New York

I manage over 10 pre-existing conditions, live with chronic illness and pain, take 38 medications, and receive 12 biologic infusions to slow the progression of Lupus. I live on the brink of financial ruin and only live modestly. But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I am so grateful that I can’t be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing conditions are a way of life for me as well as millions of others. As someone who spends the majority of my waking hours in doctor’s offices, the ACA has meant focusing on healing not bankruptcy.

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Angela Eilers, 45, Yorba Linda, California

Ten years ago this past winter, I was sitting bedside with my 4-month-old daughter as she recovered in a children’s hospital after undergoing her first open heart surgery. Little did I know that health insurance would become so very important to my family and drive some of the decisions we subsequently made. My daughter was born in September of 2009. By March of 2010, the ACA had been signed into law. I was a strong supporter of the law before I knew we’d benefit tremendously from it. My daughter had the benefit of receiving employee-sponsored health care. It covered all her medical expenditures until the day my husband was laid off from his job.

At that point, it was two-and-a-half years after the passing of the ACA, and we knew if my husband were to venture out on his own and start his own business, we would not be turned down for private health care for our family, including my daughter. The ACA has allowed this family to stay afloat, continue to see a small business flourish, and keep my child from losing her medical team. It has meant she will not lose coverage after she hits her lifetime limit (which she was halfway to by her first birthday). It has meant peace of mind. And for that, I will be forever grateful.

Carmel Aronson, 37, Seattle, Washington

When the ACA was signed into law, I was a happy and healthy 28-year-old. I exercised regularly, ate reasonably, and did not smoke, drink, or do drugs. If you had told me then that I would one day owe my life to this piece of legislation, I would not have believed you. That realization came suddenly when I was 32 years old and diagnosed with a rapidly progressing terminal illness. My disease was determined to be “idiopathic,” which means that was not caused in any way by my own behaviors.

Living with my disease required lengthy hospitalizations, invasive medical procedures, frequent ambulance rides, and monthly medication that cost upwards of $10,000. If it were not for the protections contained within the ACA, I would have maxed out both my annual and lifetime limits very quickly. The ACA eliminated these limits, and guaranteed me an out-of-pocket maximum dollar amount that I was able to afford with my full-time job. Living with my disease wasn’t easy, but I did not have to worry that my insurance plan would deny me the medical care and medication that I needed just to maximize shareholder profits.

I also was guaranteed the ability to change medical plans without experiencing discrimination based on my pre-existing condition.  Because of the protections contained in the ACA, I was able to qualify for and receive an organ transplant, which is the only reason I am alive today. 

What happened to me could theoretically happen to anyone. Anyone with a body has the potential of experiencing significant illness and disability. Comprehensive, affordable, and accessible health care is a basic human right. The ACA is the first step in guaranteeing this fundamental right for all of us. 

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