Obamacare is for people like me

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Mar 14, 2014

As a reporter, I always strive to keep to the facts and remain objective when it comes to political issues. So when President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, I kept an open mind about it.

Even though opinions were flying about Obamacare, I decided not to join in the controversy and opted to just learn the facts and keep my opinions to myself — but that was until I had something meaningful to say about it.

Obamacare was created for people like me. I feel compelled to say that because I'm one of the thousands of people who will greatly benefit from this health care reform — and when I say "benefit," I mean my health is no longer going to be a gamble. I no longer have to opt for home remedies to try avoid the triple digit fees from Urgent Care — for the first time since I've been an independent adult, I can finally say "I, Shelby Harrell, have health insurance coverage."

This is a big deal.

One thing they don't tell you in college is the fact that you will be liable for your own health as soon as you walk across that graduation stage. During college, I was covered by a health plan through my university. After graduating, my parents weren't able to add me to their plans so I knew my health care rested on my shoulders when I took on the first job of my career — and wouldn't you know, my first job didn't include any health benefits.

When I looked into the health insurance plans (before Obamacare), there was nothing there for me. No plans came anywhere near my budget (which was rather limited) so I just avoided the idea of coverage altogether. I told myself that I would take vitamins and be extra careful not to get hurt.

But after a while, I began to feel like health insurance was a looming spirit haunting me. Deep down in my gut I was scared that something bad would happen, but there was really nothing I could do about it. I was unmarried, with a very limited salary so I basically had to accept the fact that health insurance was simply a luxury I could not afford. And that's what I did.

The first two years of my adult life consisted of seasonal stomach bugs, several head colds, multiple infections and chronic allergies. My co-workers were always giving me that grossed out look because they knew I  couldn't see a doctor and was spreading germs. But what could I do about it? I could only try to get better on my own without medical help, which translated to: I was miserable.

Fast forward to present day— I'm almost 26 — and up until last week, I had absolutely no healthcare coverage and had to pay for all medical treatments out of pocket. But now that insurance is required by law, and since open enrollment is closing soon (ends March 31), I finally made myself visit healthcare.gov (Health Insurance Marketplace) to find a plan. I was pleasantly surprised. The heavy healthcare burden I had been carrying around for years was lifted once I saw that I qualified for a substantial subsidy, and that the government would pay for a large portion of my insurance premiums. Apparently, living on my own with a beginner's salary and no children was a good thing...or at least meant that healthcare would be available to me at a low cost. Who knew?

Affordable doctor visits, specialist visits, prescription drug coverage, medical management programs, hospital services and medial providers in my area that accept my plan...all for a very low premium after applying my full subsidy credit. It was like a healthcare holiday! I never knew I would be so excited to have a healthcare plan, but it was seriously an enormous weight off of my shoulders once I realized I had options to fall back on — if I got the flu or if I needed some antibiotics I wouldn't have to forfeit my other living expenses. After hearing a lot of the negative things about Obamacare, it was truly a reality check for me once I found out the healthcare reform was intended to help me, and people like me.

Not everyone may have benefitted from this healthcare reform, but I bet there are lots of people out there like me who are college graduates just starting their careers without children or a spouse, and for the first time ever, some of us are able to afford health insurance.

It's easy to sit back and criticize everything that's going on in the world, but sometimes, you take a closer look. You don't have to support the cause, but at least recognize that people are being helped and this change is making a difference.

I encourage all of you who need coverage to visit healthcare.gov and see what kind of coverage you qualify for — you might just be surprised what kind of subsidy you may get. And for all of you guys out there who already have coverage in your price range, be thankful for it. Don't take it for granted; there are other people out there who have to live without it, and trust me that's no fun.