After last week’s Supreme Court decision in King vs. Burwell, the Affordable Care Act remains intact, preventing hundreds of thousands of Georgians from losing access to the financial assistance they need to maintain good health. The plaintiffs’ argument, based on a narrow interpretation of the law, sought to have subsides removed for states, like Georgia, that relied on the federal healthcare exchange instead of creating a state exchange of their own.
While there has been and will continue to be much debate about the political ramifications of this decision, what it means for me is a continued sense of financial security. As a Senior at the University of Georgia, much of my income over the last three years has been used to support my education. I’ve worked part-time at a grocery store, for a variety of political causes, and even donated my blood plasma to support eight semesters of tuition, each new stack of books, and basic living expenses.
The Affordable Care Act represents a financial lifeline for me. The subsidies I receive make insurance affordable, allowing me to go to the doctor on a regular basis and have financial protection if I am in an accident or get sick. However, this wasn’t always my reality. Throughout 2014, I was without health insurance when my parents lost theirs. I avoided going to the doctor, wore my contacts longer, and hoped that I would not get sick or hurt, all because I could not afford health insurance. Like many who lack insurance, I put off care when I needed it. After being rear ended by a tow truck, I avoided going to the hospital for two days until my pain became unbearable.
Here in my home state, there are 412,000 Georgians like me. They purchase health insurance through the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act and receive financial assistance that averages $274 per month. Without these subsidies, I, and many Georgians like me, would not have access to affordable health insurance. For young people in my position, this would present a difficult choice we should not have to make. I could either use my limited income to invest in my education and my future or I could purchase a limited health plan that provides inadequate protection against a health and financial crisis.
The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. Customers in the individual market face higher deductibles before their coverage kicks in and have access to a smaller list of doctors than people who receive their insurance from their employer. 282,000 Georgians would have access to health care if the state decided to expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, as allowed by the Affordable Care Act. A majority of this group are the working poor with jobs that do not provide access to health insurance.
But I sleep a little more soundly this week knowing that the advances made by reforming our healthcare system have been upheld by the Supreme Court. As a Georgian who both works for improved policies and is deeply impacted by the decisions our policymakers make, I hope that we will continue to expand healthcare access to all residents of our state. It provides a sense of security for me, a sense of security all of my neighbors and friends should have.
What’s your health care story? Tell us!