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Pamela John's picture

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It is undisputed that the early days of open enrollment on the Healthcare.gov website were problematic, but there were a ‘fortunate few’ who made it through, and I was one of them. I’d been waiting for October 1st, 2013, like a kid at Christmas. After a few attempts, I was enrolled for the first time in two years. When I learned that my plan would cost $100 less than I’d been paying for prescriptions each month without coverage, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. Present times being what they are, I did the next best thing: Facebook status update!

Within minutes, the congrats started rolling in.  One friend, Bruce Bacon, inquired about sharing my story and asked innocently, “I wonder if there's a Facebook page dedicated to ACA success stories?” I leapt at the idea. He and I were ready to start our own page when Bruce discovered one called ACA “Obamacare” Signup Success Stories, which was created by a visionary named Rob Miller. In an instant, Bruce and I told everybody we knew that there was a place where folks could share their positive stories about the ACA. We invited all the friends we could think of, and shared links to the page on every pro-ACA Facebook page we could find. Bruce and I contacted Rob to tell him that we would be working to give his page a boost.

Within 24 hours, the page had gone from 12 likes to more than 700. “Overwhelmingly, we've found that people are really relieved and refreshed when they discover our page. They're so sick of all the vitriol out there, especially when it is at odds with what they personally have been experiencing,” says Rob.

In fact, none of us had truly foreseen what the page would become. Once the stories began pouring in detailing the improved health and personal economies that people experienced when the ACA’s Pre-existing Condition Insurance (PCIP) went into effect, we quickly realized that our efforts were going to involve more than combating tales of a broken website. We removed the term “Signup” from our name and became ACA “Obamacare” Success Stories. We wanted to keep the page as non-partisan as possible. This has proven difficult, but we believed that people would see that healthcare is bigger than politics. It’s about humanity.

Our outreach efforts brought the invaluable contributions of expert volunteers, such as social networking genius Benjamin Feinblum, IT expert Edward Lynn, web designer Jack Russell, healthcare attorney Stephen Scapelliti, ACA policy expert Barbara Cobuzzi, and social worker Lynne Smith who provides compassionate, expert assistance to our page followers who have questions about the ACA and its related programs. We  also have numerous volunteers work on page content, scheduling and meme creation—most notably Amy Williams. None of us have ever met face to face. Nor have we ever received payment from a political group or organization. We are strictly a volunteer effort.

Our rewards are measured in terms of the stories of improved health and gratitude that we read daily. Stories of lives saved, cancers diagnosed within days of coverage, life-saving and -sustaining treatments begun. One woman is saving so much money, she’s been able to keep her home. Others are starting new businesses with the money they’ve saved, or going back to finish a degree. Countless people wanting to retire are finally able to, and they will leave their jobs to the next generation. Perhaps most moving are the many parents and grandparents who write in to tell us how the ACA is saving the lives of their children and grandchildren.

ACA Success meme
In just 14 weeks, our page has grown to 10,000 likes. More than 500 success stories have been submitted to us directly via our Facebook Page and our Twitter account: @ACASuccessStory. Of those stories, roughly 30% have disclosed the amount of money they have saved since the inception of PCIP in 2010 and what they expect to save in 2014. To date, that total exceeds $1,000,000—and we are still only 80% through the penalty-free phase of open enrollment.

There are numerous places on the web where people are sharing ACA stories, but ACA “Obamacare” Success Stories is unique, in that it provides people a safe place to tell their side of the story without being attacked. These stories, by and large, are ignored by media outlets. We have all heard the so-called and often debunked Obamacare “Horror Stories.” As one of our page contributors pointed out, the news only reports about plane crashes. It ignores the thousands of safe flights that occur each day. We intend our page to be a safe environment for the stories of real people whose lives have been changed positively, by the ACA. And boy, you should read those stories. They will lift you up.

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