I was working for my high school boyfriend — we were reunited on Facebook through a mutual friend after his two marriages went bust — and living with him. I’d had my own publicity business but my boyfriend’s increasing, dire work woes consumed our every waking moment. I had to help if I wanted a moment of peace.
He had a staff of all women. I had my own health insurance, obtained via Blue Cross Blue Shield in Texas, where my self-owned company had been located. As living with him and weathering his crises began to shut down my independent income, I dropped my prescription coverage and changed my deductible so I could have some better rates.
As I began working only for him, he paid me as a freelancer almost enough for me to keep up with my premiums. His office employees had a group, but since it was all women, most had coverage through spouses. The ones who weren’t married were young enough not to want any kind of benefit that might reduce their take-home pay, even in theory, and all actively opted out of coverage. In my capacity managing his office, I liaised with his health insurer, who told him he no longer had enough qualifying participants so they were terminating his group.
I looked into insurance options: Could we entice a couple of employees with salary bumps and get them into a bigger group? This wasn’t going to be possible, they did not want it. So my boyfriend looked into the “state pool” for himself, the only thing he qualified for with his pre-existing conditions of knee surgeries, multiple antidepressants, hypertension, sports injuries and impending SLAP surgery. The state pool offered him slim-to-none coverage at a middling rate.
What if — what if — I went into a group with him?
So I did. I became his employee to help him keep health insurance. MY premium was $900 in this Faustian bargain, which caused him to complain endlessly about the Expense of Me. Meanwhile, I fretted privately at the prospect of tying my own clean, affordable health insurance record to that of an unstable, not-good-decision-making boyfriend.
Barack Obama got us something called Obamacare, in the form of the Affordable Care Act, and my life changed in one of the luckiest of some pretty lucky breaks I had during my cancer journey. And that’s the beginning of the story of ACA and me.