For the past five years I have been working as a freelance writer after having closed my failing restaurant business of 10 years. Freelancing is a low-paying job and a risky one, but I felt that
following my dream of writing full time was the best thing I could do for my mental and physical well-being. I have held private health insurance on and off throughout the last 15 years, more off, because my premiums kept going up and my benefits kept going down. Mostly I simply didn’t visit doctors for many years, and when I did, I went to walk-in clinics when I was so sick I couldn’t stand it anymore.
When I applied for health care at healthcare.gov in 2014 I was thrilled to have a premium that was
about $100 per month, and covered my basics. I had a high deductible but that was better than nothing. But even with my rent, car expenses, phone bills, and food, it was still hard for me to make ends meet at $14,000 per year. I needed to make some changes to be able to have a better quality of life. I eventually gave up my car, and then my apartment to become a house-sitter, along with my writing. I was eligible for food stamps, and probably other assistance, but I was ashamed about my low income, and was afraid that people would see me using an EBT card.
Last year I changed my Florida Blue health insurance plan to have a lower deductible and to
include dental care. My salary had gone up to $18,000 and I felt that I could afford better care. By
not having a car or apartment I had kept my expenses affordable. In spring of 2016 I came down
with the flu that turned into bacterial pneumonia. I was covered by Florida Blue for every expense
incurred with those illnesses, which lasted close to 30 days. Two months later I had a bowel blockage caused by a hernia, and had to have surgery. My out of pocket expenses totaled about $300. The hospital bill was well over $20,000. In early 2017, I discovered that I didn’t have to pay a
premium at all. I made an appointment with a young man at Florida Blue to make sure that my insurance was still on track – I was worried because I hadn’t received a bill. He explained that because of my low income, my tax credit now covered my entire premium.
Healthcare.gov has given me a quality of life and peace of mind that is unrivaled in any other
assistance program. Even with my low income I could still manage my grocery bill and other
expenses, but when it comes to healthcare, there is no way I could possibly pay for a serious illness. And if I couldn’t, where would I be? Most likely, hopelessly in debt…