Opinion: The Affordable Care Act saved my life and this is why we have to protect it

(NuttapongPunna/Canva)

By Kat Klawes

February 28, 2024

The day I turned 26, I didn’t give the birthday much thought. It wasn’t a landmark birthday—until it became the birthday that changed my life. On my 26th birthday, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It was also the day I had to leave my parents’ health insurance plan. 

When I received my cancer diagnosis, the cancer wasn’t even my biggest worry. It was figuring out how I would be able to afford healthcare and treatment. Thankfully, I was able to register for a healthcare plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) immediately. It took me less than 15 minutes to sign up online. The ACA healthcare plan allowed me to afford the healthcare I needed, with a low out-of-pocket maximum. 

The ACA helped me pay for doctors’ appointments, surgeries, and medications throughout my cancer treatment. Beyond my cancer diagnosis, I know the benefits of the ACA impact all Americans, even if they don’t have an ACA plan or health crisis. 

The ACA ended life-time limits for an individual’s costs on healthcare plans. I was born with a genetic blood disorder, similar to hemophilia. One of my medications needed in an emergency for a bleeding incident can cost up to $90,000 a dose. Before the ACA, I could be kicked off an employer’s insurance for having high healthcare costs. One of the ACA’s most significant achievements is the protection it offers for people like me who have pre-existing conditions and need care.

Now, with the ACA, I have the freedom to change jobs, open my own business, and choose the career I want all while knowing I can always access a healthcare plan even with my pre-existing conditions. In 2020, the healthcare premium tax credits saved me money and allowed me to open a savings account for the first time in my life. They brought my premium from $200 a month to less than $1 per month. 

I no longer have to put off treatment for the things I need because of the ACA. I’ve been able to afford hearing aids and get much-needed treatment for an autoimmune disorder I was diagnosed with after battling cancer. I recently enrolled in employer-sponsored coverage for the first time in my life and am still benefiting from the ACA’s impact on the healthcare marketplace. The ACA mandates that plans cover preventive treatment, including pap smears, which will inform me if my cancer ever recurs. 

I was able to rely on an ACA plan when I needed it the most. In 2024, a record number of Americans, 21.3 million people, signed up for an ACA plan indicating that the ACA is more crucial than ever.  Despite this ever-growing evidence that the ACA is a lifeline for so many Americans, there have been over 50 votes in the Assembly to repeal the ACA since 2011. The Trump administration repeatedly attacked the ACA and congressional GOP policies continue to oppose expanding healthcare access, despite its importance for the well-being of the American people. We need to expand ACA access to ensure all Americans can get affordable, accessible, and quality healthcare just like I did. 

Author

  • Kat Klawes

    Kat Klawes is a proud Milwaukeean. Kat has a BA in Education from Northern Michigan University and a MA in Education Policy from Marquette University. She has a decade of experience in policy work, community organizing, and she currently works at Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

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