This week, two years ago, President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. By doing so, he started states down the path to creating Health Benefits Exchanges, or marketplaces that will help Americans find affordable health care. The state of Minnesota has chosen to create its own exchange, drawing on our history of leadership and excellence in the area of healthcare.
But, Minnesotans needs to ensure that the Exchange doesn’t fall victim to party-line politics. Some legislators want to put the Exchange into the hands of the health insurance companies and insurance brokers.
Real people’s lives are at stake and if created with real people in mind, the Exchange will positively affect them. An Exchange created for the people will prevent dire situations, like the one I found myself in when this bill was being passed.
I ran my own daycare and was insured by Minnesota Care when my mother became gravely ill. In order to take care of her, I closed the daycare to become her official personal care assistant. This way, I could keep her in the comfort of her own home, not a nursing home. This was her final wish.
As her Personal Care Assistant, I no longer qualified for Minnesota Care because I made too much money – at less than $10.50 per hour. As a result, I couldn’t afford my diabetes medication. Without insulin, my blood sugar climbed and climbed until one day, I ended up in intensive care with dangerous diabetes complications.
When I was discharged, the hospital gave me enough insulin for two months. I had no idea what I was going to do when I ran out of that medication. I would end up right back in the emergency room and this time the complications could be worse.
Ironically, my mother died within that timeframe and I, newly unemployed, qualified again for Minnesota Care. In other words, my mother had to die for me to have access to affordable health insurance.
The state of Minnesota is currently debating how our Health Benefits Exchange will function. Had a consumer-friendly Exchange been in place at the time of my mother’s illness, I could have had access to an affordable health plan and prevented an expensive, dangerous and scary hospital stay.
Now, I am looking to re-enter the workforce. Lack of access to health care is a huge barrier. If I make too much money, I won’t be eligible for Minnesota Care. I won’t be able to afford a private plan, if I can even get one with my pre-existing condition.
I am just one example of someone who is falling through the cracks of our current health care system. We need an Exchange that is going to close those cracks and build a strong foundation for an equitable healthcare system, so people like me can go back to work with affordable health care options.
Pick up the phone and call your Minnesota legislators. Tell them that you want a Health Benefits Exchange that works for you, not for the insurance industry. Without one, the lives of thousands of Minnesotans are at risk.