As Americans approach the March 31st deadline to sign up for health insurance through the marketplace to get coverage and avoid the tax penalty, I have a little story for you.
Two months ago: my sister-in-law asked me for help figuring out the new health care exchange. She was 27 with no known health issues and very few assets to her name. We figured it would probably be cheaper for her to just pay the $95 penalty this year and get insurance coverage next year, but I told her I’d definitely help her figure it out.
One month ago: my sister-in-law came over one afternoon with all of her tax documents and we got her 2013 taxes filed. Since we had that information already in hand, we went onto Colorado’s health care exchange website (we’re one of the few states that has a separate website from the federal government) and filled out all of the required information so she could at least have a ballpark number in mind for how much her monthly premiums would be after figuring in her Advance Premium Tax Credit amount.
With the newly increased income level limits, we found out that she actually qualified for free health insurance through the state and her new card would be mailed to her shortly, easy as that. Finding out that she was getting a pretty decent tax refund + free health insurance all in the same day meant that Jaime told me it was one of the best days of her life. 🙂
About one week after that, my sister-in-law had an eye infection and had to go to the optometrist. Her exam and prescription would have cost her about $300 out of pocket, but with her insurance it cost her $5 in co-pay fees. She went back to the eye doctor two more times before it was cleared up and he could give her a new Rx for her contacts & eyeglasses. She called me almost in tears she was so thankful to have been able to go to these appointments and not stress about how she was going to pay for them.
12 days ago, Jaime died. In a 15 minute window she went from being her funny, breathing self to being dead. Her boyfriend was the one that found her and called 911. The paramedics spent an hour trying to revive her, and nothing worked. She had slipped into a coma and died.
My heart hurts and tears fall from my eyes even typing those words “out loud.”
Even though nothing the paramedics did that day was able to save her life, there will still be some pretty sizable medical bills incurred from the events that unfolded that day. However, thanks to the push from the Federal Government to get everyone signed up for health insurance, Jaime had coverage. We don’t know yet how much will be covered, but anything is better than nothing, and I am so grateful that paying for those final lifesaving measures won’t be an added stress on my in-laws during this horribly painful time.
Sign up. Get covered. It’s important.