The health care law is a hot topic in politics, but what about the people who rely on it?
A year after being diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, Kelly Angard is waging a fight for not only her life, but for millions of others.
Over the past 12 months, the 52-year-old self-employed photographer and artist has undergone chemotherapy and surgery and is once again going through another round of chemo. With insurance, her treatment costs her around $16 per month; without insurance, her out of pocket costs rise to more than $5,200 per month — unaffordable on virtually anyone's budget. Without treatment, it's probable that her cancer would reach a terminal stage within months.
Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Angard would have found it nearly impossible to find health insurance.
Thanks to the 2010 law, also known as "Obamacare," Angard couldn't be denied coverage on the basis of having a preexisting condition. At the time of her diagnosis, Angard was still on her recently-separated husband's insurance, and while she was able to stay on his plan for a while, she'd eventually found herself in need of her own policy. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she couldn't be turned away due to her cancer diagnosis.
November's election brought a renewed call from the law's opponents for its repeal. That's when it hit home for Angard that she may soon lose what coverage she has.
"It hit me like a freight train," she says, noting that she had been rediagnosed just weeks before the election.
She teamed up with two other women to create Faces of the ACA, a website dedicated to boosting the stories of individuals whose lives have been saved because of the law.
The political rhetoric surrounding the law has overshadowed the reality of what its repeal would mean to the millions of people who benefit from it. Angard, along with Anjali Fernandes and Mary Afifi, launched Faces of the ACA to help take the discussion surrounding the law beyond the rhetoric.
"So many people do not understand — they hear the talking points, but they don't really understand what that exactly means — what that looks like for a person [like me]," she says.
"I've had the idea in my head that people just want to be heard. Obviously, even more so now, in this environment after this election, people want to be heard. So, in a nonpartisan way, the idea of having a place where people can have a voice came into my head. I was overwhelmed with doing it on my own, but through conversations ... with a few other people, I said, 'I really believe that we need to get our faces in front of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and the others.' And the lady I was talking with said, 'Yes, we do.' She said, 'Faces of the ACA.'"
Faces of the ACA has a simple goal: to push back on the politicized approach to health care.
And that's exactly why Angard wanted to avoid using the term "Obamacare" across the site.
"I don't want it to be a political issue at all," she says. "And so I made no political issue on the site because everybody has health needs. Calling the law by its respectful name was very important to me."
It turns out that when you ask people about what the Affordable Care Act actually does, they like it.
According to a December survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 85% of the public support the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans until age 26, 83% support eliminating out of pocket costs for preventative services, and 69% favor the provision that bans insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions.
That same poll found that just 26% of the public want the law completely repealed. 30% of Americans actually think the law needs to do more.
Repealing the law would have some potentially disastrous effects.
The Urban Institute, a public policy think tank, found that repealing the Affordable Care Act would cause nearly 30 million Americans to lose their insurance. Of those newly uninsured, up to 36,000 people may die as the result of no longer having access to health care.
Misconceptions about the law, however, continue to run rampant, and that's why stories from people whose survival depends on it are so very important.
Most of us have benefited from the law in one way or another. Still, many don't seem to understand what the legislation actually does. In October, then-candidate Donald Trump appeared to confuse the set of standards and regulations (what the law consists of) with some sort of insurance plan all on its own (which is not what the Affordable Care Act is).
Another common, if somewhat misunderstood, argument against the legislation is that it's driving the cost of insurance up. The reality is that this problem existed long before the law was passed, and interestingly enough, it was opposition from some of the more conservative members of Congress that eliminated the possibility of a "public option" — something that would have helped rein in those yearly increases. While the average premium increase for plans bought through the Healthcare.gov marketplace increased by 22%, few were actually affected by this, as the available subsidies increased as well.
As of this writing, Faces of the ACA has roughly 100 stories from a wide range of Americans.
From Luanne T., who was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 13, to Mark D., who shared his story of being denied coverage pre-ACA due to a clerical error, it's worth taking your time to visit the site and see just how many people depend on the ACA and what it would mean to lose it.
This really shouldn't be a partisan issue. The U.S. is one of few industrialized countries not to guarantee health care for its citizens, and while even many of the law's proponents would argue that a single-payer system would be an ultimately better solution, the Affordable Care Act is a big step in the right direction — and Faces of the ACA shows why.