Health Coverage is My Road to Independence

From the article by Mary Leapart on

I am an educator by profession and at heart. I taught high school for 10 years and then left the classroom to work in curriculum development and training. In the years since leaving the classroom, I realized that I had developed many skills that I could use to start a career as an independent consultant. I had always dreamed of working for myself. The only obstacle in my way was health insurance.

You see, I have bipolar disorder and maintain my health by regularly seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, taking my meds, and employing other holistic health practices. My only options for insurance after leaving my full-time job was COBRA, the insurance offered to me after I left my job, or finding my own plan. COBRA was going to cost more than $800 a month, so I chose to find my own insurance through private insurers. However, despite the fact that I managed my disorder responsibly, I was turned down by two companies due to my pre-existing condition.

I had to put my dream of working for myself on hold and find a job that provided health insurance. I went without coverage for several months while I was looking for a new position. Without insurance, I was uneasy. I walked around on eggshells, knowing that any injury or illness could be a financial disaster.

After a year in my new full-time job, the Health Insurance Marketplace opened, providing insurance options, despite my pre-existing condition. Initially, I thought the process of shopping for a plan through the Marketplace would be overwhelming, so I stayed at my current job—just for the health insurance.

But then I decided that I didn’t want to wait any longer to chase my dream. At the beginning of 2015, I started my own consulting business. So it was time to get covered. This time, I heard about the Navigator program, where I could get personal help to find and enroll in a Marketplace plan. My assister was great at explaining my options and how to sign up.

My plan went into effect March 1, 2015. My premium was only $50 a month after tax credits. It was wonderful coverage. I had a $0 deductible and my therapist copay was also $0.

The financial assistance I receive under the Affordable Care Act adjusts with my income, so I do pay more for my coverage now since I have started making more money. This year, I returned to the classroom to teach part-time while I work on developing my consulting business. But the coverage has remained available and affordable, and the fact that I can even buy insurance on my own means so much to me. I am always working to be seen as more than just a label—bipolar disorder. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, this is one less arena where I have to take up that fight.

Because of the Affordable Care Act and the 2008 mental health parity law, I can’t be denied coverage because of my pre-existing bipolar disorder, and I can use my Marketplace coverage to get mental health services along with medical care. The parity law requires insurance plans to treat benefits for mental health and substance use treatment no differently than medical and surgical benefits.

Read the full article.