At midnight last Monday, my friend was one of the first to sign up for health coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
For two years she’s been one of 44 million uninsured Americans-- using the emergency room as her doctor and putting off preventive care like blood pressure tests, diabetes exams, and mammograms. It wasn’t always like this—she once had insurance offered by her employer.
But, when she no longer had that job, she was on her own- able to feed and house herself, but unable to afford health insurance. She describes herself as “a poster child for Obamacare.”
The Obamacare signup kicked off despite the government shutdown. Two million people in New York clicked on in the first two hours, between 2.8 and 4.7 million nationwide. No surprise here. When the Connector--our version of the affordable health care act began seve n years ago--lots of people signed up in numbers much faster than expected.
Glen Shor, who once headed the Connector, said the Bay State experience proves that “people want affordable health insurance.”
We’ll soon find out how many people want it. I think there may be more than estimated. Some, like my friend who, as a former non-profit professional, does not fit the stereotype image of the uninsured. At 45, she is too young for Medicare, and too well off for Medicaid. But even if she qualified, Medicaid is out of reach in her state. Her governor refused the Medicaid expansion available under Obamacare as well as the state health exchange.
Because other governors also rejected the exchanges, they are only available in 36 states, even in states like Texas with huge numbers of uninsured. In those states the federal government is offering a federal exchange and has identified local organizations—navigators-- to get the word out.
Recent polls confirm that Americans are about evenly divided in their support for the Affordable Care Act, but an overwhelming majority did not approve of shutting down the government to stop the plan. Supports believe once the shouting and political maneuvering stops, people will see for themselves exactly what is offered, and like what they see.
Early enrollees, like my friend, say it’s a big relief to know they will have guaranteed health insurance. My friend is hoping the government shutdown will not slow the health coverage start scheduled to begin January 1 of next year. Until then, she’s going to try hard not to get sick.