The ACA protects all of us, whether we know it or not

People rally against the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act during a gathering in San Francisco

People rally against the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act during a gathering in San Francisco

When people complain about premiums being higher under the Affordable Care Act, they don’t realize that they also need the new protections they are paying for, even if they’re perfectly healthy.

I was perfectly healthy until I wasn’t.

I say that a lot, because I think that’s what most people don’t understand. When people complain about premiums being higher under the Affordable Care Act, they don’t realize that they also need the new protections they are paying for, even if they’re perfectly healthy.

Because your health could change tomorrow, just like mine did.

It’s scary to think, but it’s also true. You could get in a car crash tomorrow. You could find out you have cancer next week. Should that time come, you should be worried about caring for yourself and your loved ones. You shouldn’t have to worry whether your insurance will cover your treatment or if you’ll go bankrupt just trying to survive.

I was 21 when a virus exacerbated a genetic condition I didn’t even know I had. I tried and failed to go back to work and finish school several times. It landed me in the hospital almost every time. I knew that, once I was no longer on my parents’ plan, since I’m not able to work and get insurance through an employer, I could be denied by insurance companies because of my illness. I didn’t know how I would continue to pay for my costly medical care. Then the Affordable Care Act happened. It saved me. It let me stay on my parents’ plan longer, it prevented discrimination against my illness (and my gender), and it forbade insurance companies from putting a lifetime or annual cap on me.

My body doesn’t digest food correctly, so, in an amazing feat of medicine, I get my calories intravenously through a central line. This is a complicated procedure that costs about $3,000 a week without insurance. It’s also a more common treatment than you might think. Many of its beneficiaries are children. The loss of the protections in the ACA would devastate many families.

Last week, Senate Republicans voted down a provision that would protect people with disabilities and chronic conditions from future legislative changes to the bill. The vote made me feel angry, betrayed, and, most of all, terrified. I can taste the fear in my mouth like a bitter pill I cannot swallow. For all of their talk of maintaining the provisions that protect disabled people — that the majority of Americans have said they want to keep — Republicans have shown us with their actions that they have no intention of doing so.

The ACA isn’t perfect, but it’s also brand-new. It needs improvement, not erasure. If we fall into the trap of misleading partisan rhetoric, we all lose.

The ACA protects all of us, whether we know it or not. I hope you never need it as desperately as I do.

Leah Holstein lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She has written for Funderstanding, and her own sites, Spoon Shares and The Magical World Of.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.