Affordable Care Act, healthcare, Obamacare — January 9, 2017

‘I don’t know what I would have done without Obamacare’ says woman with bipolar disorder

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Untreated mental health issues can prevent people from working and leading full lives. This woman worries about her future if she can’t afford the right care.

Bipolar disorder has been in the news a lot lately following the death of Carrie Fisher, who was very open about the challenges she faced living with this mental health condition.

A mood disorder, bipolar disorder affects millions of Americans. One of those Americans is Melanie, who is very concerned about what would happen to her if the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, were repealed or dismantled. The 54-year-old describes herself as “precariously employed,” because the only jobs she’s been able to find as a legal assistant tend to be temporary positions that don’t include health benefits. Her situation could become dire if she didn’t have health insurance to pay for her treatment.

Bipolar disorder requires psychiatrist visits, therapy sessions and medication to keep me emotionally and mentally stable. I don’t know what I would have done without Obamacare. People can’t afford this kind of medication without insurance unless they’re making $100,000 or $200,000 a year. It’s going to eat up everything you make.

Melanie’s income is low, so she qualifies for tax credits to help her pay for insurance. Under her plan, Melanie’s three medications cost $5 or $10 each time she refills them. With insurance, she also doesn’t have to worry about what would happen if she needed some sort of extended care, as she did when she was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2006. Fortunately, she had insurance at the time and was successfully treated. And with Obamacare, Melanie gets her routine mammograms to make sure she remains cancer-free at no extra cost. But she knows that without insurance, medical bills for a serious illness could drive her into bankruptcy.

Plus, right now Melanie is able to get the same coverage as anyone else because she can’t be discriminated against for having a pre-existing condition thanks to the patient protections in the ACA. She knows what could happen to people her if they’re no longer able to afford or even be eligible for health insurance.

“People with untreated mental illness have a good chance of either ending up homeless or in jail,” she says.

Melanie has heard President-elect Trump say he’d like to keep the ACA’s provision that prevents insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, but she’s not convinced he understands how the law works.

It’s not enough to keep the pre-existing condition rule. Removing the mandate [that requires people to have insurance or pay a fine] would, in essence, eliminate the tax subsidies that make ACA coverage affordable to those like me who are precariously employed. Everyone would have to pay the full premium and we know that many on Obamacare just can’t afford that.

Melanie admits the ACA could be improved, but she feels strongly that starting over makes no sense. Especially with all the systems already in place since the law was passed, repeal would end up costing taxpayers money. Not to mention the human cost.

The people who want to destroy the ACA just don’t care if people like me live or die. Whether we have an untimely, unnecessary death or not. That’s how I look at it.

Melanie is reaching out to her elected representatives to make her voice heard on this and other issues. Congress is already taking actions that could begin unraveling the ACA — so make yourself heard, too.

Pick up the phone and call your elected officials today. Let them know that lives hang in the balance — along with their seats in Congress in the next election. 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.

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.

[Photo courtesy of Melanie.]

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