Others have written much about what the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, means for diabetics. I will leave the analysis to the people who have done the research. I just want to tell you what Obamacare feels like to a diabetic.
First, some background on my current healthcare status: I have been with the same HMO, Kaiser, since before I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of nine. I have therefore felt married to Kaiser; in Kaiser’s eyes, I do not have a pre-existing condition, whereas switching health insurance companies might expose me to being labeled with the big scarlet D for diabetic. Kaiser is pretty good as a health provider so long as you can find good doctors, and I am lucky enough to have lived in big cities with big hospitals where I have lots of choice. I am also lucky enough to have wanted to stay in California all this time, and to have a husband who is very good at talking his way through pharmacies and bureaucracies when I am busy weeping with frustration that they won’t give me the medication I have been prescribed. (That’s a story for another time, though.) All that said, Kaiser raises its rates by 10 – 15% every year, and I don’t like the feeling that if I wanted to change, or needed to move to the East Coast, I would be in a very precarious position.
So on October 1st, I went to my state’s ACA exchange, CoveredCA. I was mostly curious, and wanted to see what the plans and rates would be; even if I want to change my healthcare, I intend to give this whole Obamacare thing a few months to make sure Congress doesn’t knife it in the back right after I make a switch.
But, noncommittal as I was, I was floored by what I saw. I filled out the simple questionnaire on the website to see my options. They asked me about my age, my income, my family size. And that was it. No medical history. No “Do you have diabetes?” No “Are you more likely than average to get kidney disease and retinal disease and neuropathy?” No “Do you cost a fortune because of all the medication you need?” No “Have you already had cataract surgery because of this stupid disease?” Age, income, family size, and then I was presented with options. The same options my healthy-young-male husband sees. The same options every late-twenty-something sees.
It’s an amazing feeling. After almost two decades of feeling tied to a single option– an option I like and am extremely grateful for, but still a single option — I felt liberated. Even now, I get chills just thinking about that feeling of, “Hey, you’re just one of us now.” It’s incredible. It’s profoundly American, to feel like I have choices and the freedom to move.
Even if you don’t intend on changing insurance providers, try it. Go to Healthcare.gov and find your state’s exchange. Fill out the minimal necessary information, and watch in wonder as they present you your options, blind to the secret truth that you have diabetes.
Death and taxes may be all that we are guaranteed, and you could argue back and forth about whether healthcare is a national right, but you’ll have to excuse me while I sit here and enjoy this intoxicating sense of liberty I’ve just been given.
Obamacare. Rock on — please!
Update, 2013-10-22: If you or anyone you know is uninsured or shopping for new coverage, check out the American Diabetes Association’s Q&A document The Health Insurance Marketplace and People with Diabetes, and then visit www.healthcare.gov to find your state’s Marketplace. For information on changes to health insurance rules that impact people with diabetes, including both changes that are already in effect and some starting on the first day of next year, check out the American Diabetes Association’s “Health Insurance Update: Protections for People with Diabetes” document.