Ashley of Chattanooga, TN

Ashley of Chattanooga, TN writes:

I’ve lived in Chattanooga for 12 years. I work part-time in the service industry. I work at an internship and do regular volunteer work. I am also active in the local performing arts community.

I grew up in a household where we didn’t see the doctor unless we needed stitches or bones set. My dad was and is a self-employed carpenter. Finances for a family of seven on a one-parent income were hard, and insurance often cost-prohibitive, so for a long time I didn’t understand the importance of access to healthcare.
Three years ago, my parents were able to get health insurance through the ACA. Just today, my dad had a battery of heart tests which were thankfully covered by their ACA-subsidized insurance- as will any future treatments he’ll need. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about my parents going bankrupt just because one of them gets sick, and can just worry about their health.

After a major life change last year, I had no health insurance for eight months due to the high cost of COBRA continuation coverage that would have run $620/month. I would have qualified for the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, but that was blocked by our callous legislature in Tennessee, who decided to leave billions of taxpayer dollars lying on the table out of pure spite.  So I ended up in the nightmare scenario of having to choose between rent and healthcare. And because of the ACA’s exchanges, this month I finally was able to afford both. I benefit from mental health parity. Women’s preventive services. Free birth control. Paying the same for insurance as men, because “being a woman” used to be a pre-existing condition, just like my dad’s heart valve would have been. I’m going to benefit from having him in my life now, too.

This year, I’ve got a real shot at achieving my lifelong dream: striking out into business for myself and becoming fully self-employed, just like my dad. It breaks my heart to think of how many people before the ACA were prisoners in jobs or other life-circumstances they hated, but couldn’t escape because they couldn’t be sure they would still have healthcare on the other side. This isn’t just about keeping my dreams alive. It’s about keeping that American Dream alive.

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