President Barack Obama has lunch with Affordable Care Act letter writers at Engine Company N 3 restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, March 3, 2016. Attendees are Brent Brown, Karen George, Karen and Sharon Szyszko, and Susan Campbell. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Americans Are Thankful for Affordable Health Care

Here’s one more thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: Today, nearly every American has access to the financial security of affordable health care — something nearly impossible to imagine eight years ago. Since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, 20 million Americans now have health insurance who didn’t have it before. And for 150 million Americans with employer-provided insurance, their coverage is better than it was before.

“You really did save my life.” — Brent, a Republican from Milwaukee, to President Obama about the Affordable Care Act.

Over the years, plenty of Americans have written letters to the President to share how the Affordable Care Act has impacted their lives — whether they were able to get ahead of their medical bills, get lifesaving surgery, or support a family member with substance use disorder.

To lift up some of these stories of how #CoverageMatters, we asked five senior members of the President’s staff to highlight their favorite stories of people who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act. Here’s what they said.

From Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President, Cabinet Secretary, and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force:

Darlene is from Cary, North Carolina. Back in 2012, she was paying almost $500 a month for her health insurance. She had to discontinue her coverage because she could no longer afford it. But under the Affordable Care Act, Darlene was once again able to afford her health care. As she said in her letter, 2014 marked “two years that I can afford my health care without it crippling my financial health.” When President Obama talks about the Affordable Care Act giving people a peace of mind, he’s talking about people like Darlene.

Read Darlene’s letter to President Obama.

From Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, and Executive Director for the Council on Women and Girls:

In 2014, Ann Marie was a single mother, self-employed as a massage therapist, who couldn’t afford health insurance. But when the Health Insurance Marketplace opened up in Connecticut, she found out that she qualified for Medicaid — which ended up saving her life. Here’s what she wrote to the President:

“I was finally able to have a physical and a gynecological check-up, which included a mammogram. The mammogram showed an irregularity … The cancer has been detected at a very early stage, which, with a 98% survival rate, has saved my life!’”

I’m incredibly proud that over 130 million Americans have the guarantee of free preventive care, like mammograms and contraceptive care, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Ann Marie’s story is just one of the many stories of women who have been saved by preventive care thanks to the law.

Read Ann Marie’s letter to President Obama.

From Denis McDonough, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff:

Art McFarlane is someone for whom the Affordable Care Act came along at just the right time. Art is from Elkhart, Indiana, a place that was hit harder by the recession than almost anywhere else in America. It was due to the recession that Art lost his job in advertising and lost his health insurance. During that time, his vision began to diminish to the point where he faced paying over $12,000 for surgery and hospital visits. Then Art signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He got lens replacement surgery in both eyes, and his vision returned. He wrote this at the end of his letter to the President:

“I must confess that I get extremely upset when I hear Republicans demand the repeal of “Obamacare” without giving a convincing reason. Don’t let them succeed. The United States is the richest country on earth. How can it be unfeasible for us to offer our most vulnerable citizens health coverage, when just about every other developed country offers it to their citizens!”

I couldn’t agree more with Art.

Read Art’s letter to President Obama here.

From Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy:

One of my favorite letters to the President is one from a mother named Joan Newcomb. Here’s what Joan wrote:

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you for the Affordable Care Act. My son, a 22 year old heroin addict in recovery for one year, is alive today because of this change you fought for. I was able to keep him on my insurance despite him not attending college. During our battle of his disease of addiction over the past four years — he was able to get into rehab over 10 times and his life was saved. He is now working 40–50 hours a week, renting an apartment with other young people in recovery, adding to the economy and paying taxes.”

Her letter shows how much the Affordable Care Act has meant for families struggling with substance use disorder. Not only has it helped young people who can stay on their parent’s plans until age 26, but it also ensures that substance use disorder services are essential health benefits and are required to be covered by health plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace. As President Obama wrote in response to Joan, ‘Millions of Americans like your son have been helped because they got the treatment and care they needed.’ That’s something we should all be proud of.

Read Joan’s letter to President Obama, and his response.

From Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President:

Astrid Muhammad is a wife and mother from Charlotte, North Carolina. When Astrid was 39, she found out that she had a brain tumor. She wasn’t insured at the time — so she had to delay the treatment she needed to save her life. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could have denied Astrid treatment altogether for her preexisting tumor. But the next year, Astrid enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. She was able to receive the surgery she needed to remove her tumor and cover her medical bills.

It’s striking to think of how many stories there are like Astrid’s — stories of people who would have been turned away by insurance companies, or charged exorbitant prices, just because of preexisting health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, or cancer.

(In her letter to the President, Astrid wrote that she would love to shake the President’s hand and thank him for the Affordable Care Act. In January 2015, she got the chance to do just that — she was invited as the First Lady’s guest to the State of the Union Address.)

Read Astrid’s letter to President Obama.

Check out the archive of letters to President Obama, and share your story of why #CoverageMatters.