"The first wealth is health." --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Since this was the week that the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I have had several things on my heart.  This may be controversial, and you may feel offended, but I have to share what I know to be true.  I've prayed about sharing this, and I feel like I need to do this.  I hope you will read it in its entirety because I am sharing how PPACA has personally affected me as well as clearing up some of the falsehoods surrounding it.

If you have been following my blog or know me in real life (most of my followers do), you know that I have been very sick recently.  My surgery and hospital stay last November and December totaled over $220,000.  Then I had a home health nurse for a few weeks, follow-up appointments, prescriptions. lab works, colostomy supplies, and expensive treatments that I will receive every other month for possibly the rest of my life ($3,000 just for the medicine not including its administration, clinic fees, etc.).  In April, I had my colostomy reversed.  I was only in the hospital for a week, but it cost over $50,000.  I am 27 years old.  My husband and I have only had insurance for a little over a year.  Since we have very good insurance, we only had to pay a small percentage.

I am proud of our country for standing up for people like me.
I am not saying this act is perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.  I have mixed feelings on the fact that it is mandatory, but, after a ton of research and looking at sections from the bill itself, I do believe it will make healthcare more affordable for everyone.  And I don't mind paying a little bit more so someone else who could not afford health coverage on his or her own can afford it.  And I can't imagine the rest of the country could be so cruel not to want to pay a little more as well.  Why?  Because I have a chronic, incurable disease and I have been without insurance.

I grew up in a poor household.  There were less than a handful of times where we almost went without any food, but it was always living from paycheck-to-paycheck, usually several paychecks behind.  This was not on lack of effort; my mother, who was divorced, sometimes worked up to three jobs to support herself and me, not to mention the fact that my great aunt lived with us and contributed to the household.  My father sometimes provided child support, but it was only $100 a month; he had Crohn's Disease and lived off disability coverage (he was also an alcoholic).  My mother wasn't always the best at managing money, but you could never call her lazy.  Thankfully, for most of my childhood, I received free healthcare from the state because our income was so low.  (We did have to pay co-payments from time to time, and, YES, sometimes that occasional $20 made a huge dent in our finances.)

I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease when I was 18 after having a year or so of problems from it.  When I was diagnosed, I was hospitalized for three weeks and three days while we worked around the clock to get me into remission, or at least, to stop my flare-up from destroying my body.  Do you know how much an average day and night in the hospital costs?  I've heard that it is usually around $8,000 to $10,000.  FOR ONE NIGHT.  I was on TPN, or total parenteral nutrition, which is the most expensive meal I will ever had in my life.  (I was also on it in December.)  A quick search throws out the number $250 a day;  I don't know if that is per bag or what, but that is expensive.  Estimating the cost of my hospital stay then probably totaled around $175,000.  Fortunately, my insurance covered me until I was 19, at which point I was in remission and could rely on the Student Health Services at my university.

Since being diagnosed with Crohn's, I should have been having colonoscopies at least every other year.  I didn't.  I should have been seeing a gastroenterologist every six months to check up on my condition.  I didn't.  When I had a few minor flare-ups, I visited the doctor on campus, got a prescription for a short round of steroids and antibiotics (Flagyl) and go on my merry way.  I couldn't afford the maintenance for my disease then.

I began having serious problems again in November 2010, but I couldn't get into see anyone until January when our insurance took effect.  I was referred to the gastroenterologist I have now, had a colonoscopy (my colon mostly looked good), and was placed on medication.  It didn't work.  We tried medication after medication, and none of them worked.  I kept getting worse and worse.  By November, I was in the throes of a serious flare-up.  I was hospitalized, and while I was in the hospital, perforations developed in my colon, and I had to have it removed in emergency surgery.  I almost died.  I'm not saying that the reason why I got so sick is because I didn't have insurance for a good six years, but I am sure it couldn't have hurt.  It would have been nice not to worry about my disease flaring up during that time period.

1)  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has removed lifetime caps.  Previously, our insurance had a cap of 1 million dollars; at 27, I would be over a fourth of the way there.

2)  Let's say for a minute I didn't have insurance.  I would be denied coverage because of my pre-existing condition.  BUT, because of the PPACA, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

3)  If my mother could have afforded insurance while I was in college, I could have stayed on her insurance until I was 26, whether I was in college, married, or whatnot.  Three months after my husband and I got married, he had to have surgery; unfortunately, since he had gotten married, he could no longer be on his parents' insurance.  They paid for insurance during this time and covered his surgery; I want to say it was around $5,000, which didn't break their bank, but I know that would have been something my mother never could have done for me.  This law has already ensured that my sister-in-law, who has had serious medical issues in life, can stay on her parents' insurance although she is married.  (My in-laws--and several of my relatives--do not support the PPACA.)

These are just a few of the changes that have personally affected me.  People are complaining that they won't be able to afford insurance.  I understand that; I have been there.  But the PPACA is expanding who Medicare will cover as well as subsidizing coverage for those who make too much to get Medicare but cannot afford to purchase their own insurance.  Many employers that previously did not offer insurance will have to offer it.  People say that this will be an unjust burden on businesses, and I understand that, but if you are an employer, I think you have certain responsibilities to your employees. For example, my mother's work offered insurance, but she (and the majority of the employees) made minimum wage and could not afford the expensive premiums to cover themselves and their families.  (My mother has worked as a cashier her whole life.)  You won't see an increase in your taxes unless you make over $200,000 a year as a single individual.  Depending on your income and how many people are in your family will determine how much you have to pay.

I understand that the reason why many people don't have insurance is the fact they can't afford it.  If they could afford it, they would already have it.  I was there.  Often, my mother took me to the ER when I got sick because they would write it off.  That is ripping off the system.  The PPACA is trying to get rid of such behaviors, thus saving money.  By removing pre-existing conditions and offering to subsidize insurance, they are insuring that it cannot be denied to anyone.  Rather than having those who do have insurance pick up the tab for those that don't, they are asking everyone to take responsibility of their own healthcare to the extent that they can.  I think most people would want this.  I know I did when I was uninsured and needed treatment.

And, no, there will be no death panels.  From the research I have done, this term seems to have originated with Sarah Palin.  I respect many Republicans, including many against this law, but she is not one.  I could get into why, but that is another post for another day.

Once again, it is not a perfect plan, but I think it is going to help many people.  I know people are also saying it is going to break this country.  Maybe that will happen; maybe it won't.  I could get into how much money is wasted in other areas and how it should be redirected to such areas as education and healthcare.  The greatest asset of this country is its people.  But we don't value our people the way other countries do.  I think we are finally taking the steps to show that we do care about our people and the conditions in which they live.

For more information breaking down the PPACA, visit these sites:

http://housedocs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf  (for the PPACA itself)
http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/vb8vs/eli5_what_exactly_is_obamacare_and_what_did_it/c530lfx (a more complicated breakdown)
http://lifehacker.com/5922382/how-will-the-new-health-care-law-affect-me (a more simplified breakdown)

Finally, I have to say that God wants us well and does not endorse a political party.  Jesus does not go around making people sick; HE HEALS THEM.  He is healing me day after day.  And He wants us to help minister to others.  I've prayed about this law and was given such a sense of peace last night regarding it.  I really hope I haven't stirred the pot, so to speak.  I try to avoid political arguments, but this is one I cannot ignore with so many lies being thrown around as well as my own family not acknowledging how it has helped me, my husband, and themselves.  I have tried to be as accurate as possible, and I apologize for any mistakes in the facts.  I am definitely open to discussion.

Kudos to you if you made it to the end!

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