Your View is a recurring series of opinion pieces from members of The New Tropic community. To share your ideas, goals, and work about Miami with the community in a Your View piece, please submit it to [email protected].
On St. Patrick’s Day 2011, I debarked a flight upon arriving at LaGuardia Airport in New York. I had planned to spend a few days in Manhattan visiting friends. When I got outside to look for a bus into Manhattan, my vision became skewed; my eyes started to move involuntarily. Soon after, I blacked out.
When I regained consciousness, I found myself in an ambulance being whisked away from the airport, and being informed by a kindly emergency medical technician that I had suffered a seizure.
Having a seizure was like nothing I had ever experienced. I had never fallen unconscious. I had never been in an ambulance. I had never heard my mother’s voice as anguished as it was when we spoke while I was in said ambulance en route to a hospital in Queens.
In the weeks immediately after my seizure, I underwent every brain scan under the sun. Perhaps the most unpleasant was the electroencephalogram (EEG), in which rapidly flashing lights are presented to the patient in an effort to actively trigger a seizure, thus diagnosing epilepsy. Thankfully for me, the EEG did not trigger, and I do not have epilepsy.
The insidious term “preexisting condition” implies a medical situation that is chronic and/or ongoing. My 2011 seizure was a singular, freak episode, thereby defying the aforementioned definition. As my neurologist explained to me, anybody can have a seizure; it’s merely a matter of “the perfect storm” of cerebral circumstances occurring at exactly the right (or wrong) time, and I just happened to be so unfortunate.
But prior to Obamacare, applications for health insurance included the following question: “Have you ever experienced a seizure or syncopal episode?” Answering “yes” placed me into the “preexisting condition” category, and wiped out my chances to be covered.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) eliminated the “preexisting condition” bar toward eligibility for coverage for me and for millions of other Americans. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), as currently being considered by the U.S. Senate, relaxes that rule by allowing states flexibility as to how much or how little they mandate that insurance companies pay toward medical bills for those with “preexisting conditions.” (Editor’s note: Vox has a complete breakdown of the Senate health care bill.)
In other words, depending on what Florida does, I could constructively, if not technically, lose coverage if the AHCA becomes law.
I remember the feeling of relief I had when the ACA marketplace initiated its first open enrollment. I additionally vividly recall the tears of joy many of my clients shed when I worked as a certified application counselor during that period in late 2013 and early 2014.
One could almost see the weight lifted off their shoulders upon learning that, for example, they could take their children to regular doctor visits, and that if something catastrophic happened health-wise, they would not go bankrupt.
Yes, I am scared, for myself and for the clients I helped during the debut open enrollment. The ACA is not perfect, but for me and for so many others, it has been a godsend. Here’s hoping Congress will reject the AHCA, and instead work on improvements to the ACA; lives depend on it.