by Melanie Herrera Bortz

I am a self-confessed policy wonk.  I love all kinds of data.  I typically immerse myself in anything related to making sure disenfranchised communities have the health care they need without succumbing to bankruptcy.  

Starting in December 2009, I obsessively followed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation as it made its way through the House of Representatives and Senate.  Back on March 23, 2010, when President Obama signed the ACA into law – I cried.  The ACA is the most significant health legislation that will be passed in my lifetime.

Over the last two and a half years, I managed projects where I had the ability to learn about many provisions of the new health care law.  Eventually, I helped to develop and, currently, co-direct a project aimed at educating Latinos about the benefits of the ACA – Adelante con la Salud: Latino Healthcare Engagement Project.  Every day I find myself learning about the ins-and-outs of the ACA.  When I am talking with community members, I am constantly reminded how confusing the ACA can be and that, very often, there are more questions than I have answers.

The ACA has already benefited millions of people.  People under 26 can now stay on their parents’ health insurance plans, women can get their well visits and breast feeding supplies without cost sharing and low-to-moderate income people will soon be able to get tax credits.   In less than 50 days one of the most significant elements of the ACA will be rolled out.  Using health insurance marketplaces, people will be able to easily shop for affordable health insurance. 

Over the last few months I have talked with hundreds of people about how the ACA impacts them and their families.  Back in March, my thinking about the ACA became very personal.  Until a few months ago, my family was fortunate enough to have employer sponsored health insurance.  That all changed when the company that my husband worked for closed its doors. 

Going without health coverage was not an option for my family.  You see, a member of my family has a chronic health condition and the possibility of not having health insurance terrified us.  One hospitalization could bankrupt us.  Without prescription benefits the medication to treat the health condition is $5,000 per month.  We made the tough decision to buy COBRA insurance at a whopping cost of $1,600 per month.

On October 1, 2013, I will log onto Connect for Health Colorado to shop for a more affordable health insurance plan for my family.  Because of the ACA, my family will have access to more affordable insurance without having to worry about ever being denied coverage or having to pay more because of pre-existing conditions.  Because of the ACA, my family has peace of mind.


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