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Teri Kepner's picture

My son, Cody, was 22 years old when his Crohn’s Disease became active.  He was employed full-time in the public elementary school system as an aide to two boys with autism. The job offered no health insurance. He also worked part time at Panera Bread—another job offering no health insurance as it was part-time.  He was also a part-time student at the local community college—again not qualifying for health insurance through them.  He had lost his health coverage through us, his parents, the day he turned 21.

Cody’s first symptoms were misdiagnosed as an infection.  When his symptoms got worse, not better we went to the local hospital Emergency Room where we were told he needed surgery.  However, once the doctors realized he had no health insurance, we were given the name of another surgeon who might be willing to help him.   The surgeon recommended was out of town and no other surgeons could see him for weeks.  Cody’s health deteriorated even further over the next 24 hours, and my husband and I decided to take him to yet another local hospital emergency room. There, they took him in immediately and said that surgery needed to be done within a few hours. His infection had become septic and was life-threatening.

Cody had surgery and stayed in the hospital for five more days. He received excellent treatment but was very worried about the cost.  Thankfully, the hospital granted him financial aid assistance and agreed to see him for basic care at their health clinic.  However, no specialist would treat him for his Chrohn’s Disease without health insurance.

Cody, of course, lost his job at the school. Panera Bread held his job and his professors worked with him to complete his semester. He continued to have problems related to the surgery, but was seen at the clinic once a month. When it was determined that he needed another surgery, the hospital came straight out and said we had to do whatever we could to get him health coverage because they couldn’t continue to give him the level of care he needed through financial aid.

Fortunate for us, this all happened around the time that the idea of President Obama’s health care plan was being considered. When we found out that Cody could be put back on our health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act, we were elated. I contacted my HR department and got the paperwork ready to send in the moment the bill was signed into law.

The day we received his insurance card in the mail, we made an appointment to see the specialist at the same hospital that had been treating him. He’s had four more surgeries since then, and is on a very expensive injection medication. He has to have blood work and other diagnostic tests on a regular basis, and it is all covered by healthcare through my employer. We pay the family rate and I would pay as much as I could possible pay to make sure his coverage continues. He’s now 24 and will have coverage for two more years, if no one is successful in their efforts to take it away. By then he will have his bachelor’s degree and into a Ph.D. program that will, hopefully, offer health insurance coverage.

Cody decided to start a charity effort to “give back” to the hospital that performed the surgery and assisted with financial aid. Since I am a knitter, he asked me if I would knit some hats for babies and cancer patients at the hospital for him to donate. To date, he’s collected over 500 hats that will be delivered to the hospital during his spring break in a few weeks. He was so grateful for the services and the assistance they provided, and felt that this was a small way in which he could show his gratitude.

Cody’s story illustrates perfectly how the Affordable Care Act actually changed my son’s life. It shows the flaws of the old system and the improvements since the healthcare reform began.  His story also shows that there are good, productive people who sometimes need assistance and that not all people who need assistance are “slackers who aren’t willing to work”, as so many seem to think.

I’m so grateful for Obamacare and I use the term proudly.

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