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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Paying it forward

This year I’ve been involved in providing Affordable Care Act education to community groups and partners, teaching people what the new health care law means to each of them personally.

I’ve been talking “health care reform” since 2007 when I traveled all across Florida with a bipartisan initiative calling for change. I met hundreds of people and listened to their passionate, often heart-breaking stories of what it meant to be uninsured or underinsured in the country.

And this year after several trainings and countless presentations, I thought I really understood the impact the Affordable Care Act would have on millions of Americans.

I was wrong.

When my youngest daughter had a stroke last month, we quickly learned what it really means not to have health coverage. She is in her late 20s and worked for a major hotel chain – full time, but not quite enough to qualify for benefits.

The last thing you want to think about when you are dealing with a major medical crisis is how you are going to pay the bills. But in the midst of the doctors and surgeons helping care for our daughter, the hospital financial officer came in to her room to talk about just that.

The bills started rolling in, including an almost $30,000 bill for a medi-flight. Overwhelming feelings of desperation set in – please take care of our child, we thought and opened our wallets. We knew full well we would not be able to keep up with the cost of her care, which is now close to $500,000.

Fortunately, for my daughter Washington State has options and we’ve been able to use resources that we never imagined we would need. It’s been a learning experience and a humbling experience. We are thankful for the care she’s receiving at an excellent medical facility.

This week I watched the news in shock as members of Congress who voted to defund the ACA high-fived and laughed. When my member of Congress sent me an email declaring he was proud to “Defund Obamacare, “ I picked up the phone.

I want he and others in Congress who think that makes for a good sound bite to hear from the people who are uninsured and underinsured, and to understand that you don’t high-five when you just told a parent their child won’t have healthcare.

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