The way the Affordable Care Act helped her family transformed her attitude — and led to a touching interaction with former President Obama.
Annette was not always a fan of President Barack Obama. In fact, in 2009 she went to a Tea Party rally protesting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. She and her entire family were conservative Republican activists, and most of them still are.
But in 2013 her husband, a Navy veteran, was laid off after 31 years working as a defense contractor. The entire family lost their health insurance — and they couldn’t do without. Annette’s husband has type 2 diabetes, severe high blood pressure and macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. Annette is physically disabled due to severe spinal arthritis.
Before the ACA, their pre-existing conditions would have made buying private insurance exorbitantly expensive, if they could get an insurer to cover them at all. But because of the ACA, they can’t be discriminated against for these conditions. Annette and her husband weren’t working, so they qualified for Medicaid expansion under the ACA, along with their three children.
Although they could choose a variety of doctors, Annette and her husband started going to a low-income clinic run by a coalition of churches. There, they have received care that’s not only compassionate but better than they had when her husband was working.
For the first time in several years, my husband had a normal blood pressure reading of 120/80 because the doctor rearranged some of his medicines. He’s also getting regular care for the macular degeneration that may help prevent him from going blind.
This experience transformed Annette. She says she still has conservative views about some things, like abortion, but she considers herself more of an independent voter now. And she realized something very important about herself.
Even though a lot of bad things happened since my husband lost his job, it has made me the kind of person I should have been from the beginning. Instead of just caring about the unborn, I care about the already born. Instead of just caring about myself, I care about others. You see people out there who are really hurting. Until you become one of them, you don’t really realize. It was a real eye-opening experience and an epiphany for me. I thought I was being a Christian but I wasn’t.
A few weeks ago, Annette wrote a letter to President Obama, to thank him for Obamacare. In her letter, she admitted she was not always one of his supporters. It turns out that Annette’s letter was one of the 10 letters from citizens that President Obama read every day during his two terms in office. She was stunned when she received a personal response from him. Annette’s voice gets thick with tears as she shares what that meant to her.
For eight years all I listened to was conservative talk radio. But with his letter, I saw a totally different image of him. Now that I’ve come off the conservative bandwagon, then to get that letter, he wasn’t the monster they painted him out to be. He was very professional and addressed all my concerns.
It made me feel good to get that letter. For the last three years, ever since my husband was laid off, I’ve had to be the head of the house. It’s a thankless job. The fact that the head of the free world read my letter and wrote back to me, it made me feel like I mattered.
In recent years, Annette’s eyes have been opened to many things. She looks back on that Tea Party rally to protest Obamacare and realizes that most of the people on their bus were wearing pins provided by an insurance company, a good indication insurers had a hand in the protest. As part of the conservative “Never Trump” movement, she had the opportunity to band with liberal voters who shared her opposition to a Trump presidency. Through that experience, the lines of communication were opened in both directions.
“We were actually talking to each other for the first time,” Annette says. “We were misunderstanding each other before. Gay marriage, for example. Now I understand why civil unions aren’t enough — gay couples need legal rights.”
Most important, perhaps, it has changed the way she thinks about politics and our government in light of her Christian faith. That’s the crux of her message for Republican leadership, particularly conservatives, who want to repeal the ACA.
They consider themselves Christians and that bothers me. Jesus did not say to hate the poor and love the rich. He said whatever you do for the least among you, you do for me. I don’t see conservative Christians doing that. They have the attitude of ‘I’ve got mine.’ I’d say to them, ‘If you’re going to call yourselves Christians you have to read everything Jesus said, not just the things you like.’
I’d tell them no matter how much money they have, everyone is just one pink slip away from where we are. We never thought our family would be here. It doesn’t matter how much money they have in the bank. A serious illness like cancer could wipe you out.
Annette, like millions of other Americans, is terrified of losing the healthcare coverage her family needs. And she’s one of a growing number of conservative and Republican voters who want to protect the ACA, like Mel and Theresa, whose stories I’ve told here.
Contact your Representative in the U.S. Congress HERE and your U.S. Senator HERE. Urge them to vote against repealing the ACA unless a replacement plan with the same level of coverage and consumer protections is enacted at the same time. If you’re a Republican, your voice could be especially powerful because elected officials will be reminded their jobs are at stake.
Meanwhile open enrollment for 2017 coverage continues through January 31. Get covered today at HealthCare.gov.
Has Obamacare helped you or someone in your family? Tell us about it HERE if you’d like to be considered for a future post.
[Official White House Photo by Pete Souza. Via IIP Photo Archive on Flickr.]