Alice Bennett has been overcoming odds since the young age of 14. A series of medical issues left Alice dead on an operating table for three minutes. A strep infection had entered her bloodstream, causing gangrene to overtake her legs leading to necessary amputation. Six weeks later, she woke up from a coma with no legs. It was a harsh reality that she had no choice but to deal with. After three months in the hospital, Alice was sent home and left to face the ongoing challenges of being a double amputee.
Alice was life-flighted to the hospital and after an extensive stay, her medical bills were substantial. Community fundraising by her hometown of Eastlake, Ohio helped pay for the bills. Donations flooded in from local residents who didn’t have much to give but gave anyways. However, she would have to receive new prosthetic legs every 5–6 years for the rest of her life. Money came in through banquets, charities, and checks from a medical malpractice lawsuit from the hospital that missed her strep infection the first time. But her struggle would be ongoing and lifelong. Money was and still is a constant issue. Luckily in the United States, citizens have health insurance options through private and public sectors. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always available to everyone despite citizenship. Alice didn’t face the harsh cruelty of being denied health insurance until later in her life. It wasn’t an issue for her until a blood clot caused by fibroid uterine tumors forced her to get a hysterectomy in the middle of her life. Her first hospital stay cost her $20,000 out of pocket. The second hospital stay for the surgery cost her another $20,000 out of pocket.
On top of the medical costs for her hysterectomy, Alice also had to face the $46,000 bill that came with her prosthesis. For a while, there was never a time where health coverage was guaranteed. During this time, Alice faced many health obstacles. She had many painful cysts on her amputated legs from the prosthesis, faced dental procedures, and other common sicknesses. She was unable to see a doctor and had no choice but to suffer. It broke the hearts of her family who wanted nothing but to see her healthy and happy.
In the past, insurance companies were allowed to deny patients coverage due to past medical history. The only coverage Alice was able to receive was through a program called COBRA, or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. COBRA is a health insurance program enacted by President Ronald Reagan that “mandates an insurance program which gives some employees the ability to continue health insurance coverage after leaving employment.” Alice had COBRA coverage at $1,000 per month due to her husband being laid off. But when it came time to apply for coverage once the COBRA plan ended, she faced several rejections.
Her suffering ended in 2010 with the Affordable Care Act (also known as ObamaCare). Under this federal statute enacted by President Barack Obama, individuals can not be denied health coverage because of preexisting conditions. The act has significantly decreased the number of uninsured Americans aged 18+. The CDC reported that the percentage of people without health insurance fell from 16.0% in 2010 to 8.9% during the January-June 2016 period. The ACA is not perfect but the impact it has had on the quality of life for millions of Americans should not be overlooked.
Alice is one of millions Americans facing a healthcare reform with President-Elect Donald Trump. Trump has flip-flopped on his opinions regarding ObamaCare but his original plan was to completely repeal it. But while Trump is twiddling his fingers, millions of Americans like Alice are losing sleep worrying if they are going to lose the health coverage she fought long and hard for. My family and I don’t want to see my aunt have to suffer any more than she already has. Health care is more than a signed piece of paper or a series of laws and acts, it’s someone’s life.