Day 13: When I was on Obamacare

My quick impression of the 44th President of the United States and namesake of Obamacare.

Even though friends of mine on social media know that I’m not shy to talk about politics, I’ve wanted to hold my tongue on Medium for a few reasons:

  • I’m exhausted. There’s not much more I can say that someone else will probably say much more eloquently. I might have the background and credentials to say something of worth, but I’m done for now.
  • You’re exhausted. You could agree or disagree with me on an issue I’ll write about here, but in the end, we’ll just end up further apart. I’d rather keep my friends around in spite of our differences.
  • I’m here for my own introspection. Politics are a shared engagement. They impact more than just ourselves. This blog is really just about me constantly testing myself to say something of worth.

With that in mind, I’d like to talk about my time on Obamacare.

By the end of 2012, I was officially out of the University of California system, no longer on their payroll or receiving any benefits. After short stint with a startup and experiencing Startup Weekend for the first time, I felt I had found a “niche” in the Pittsburgh entrepreneurial world.

However, I was recently married and virtually hovering just above the poverty line, so going all-in on a startup was not an easy pitch for me to make. The compromise: find a job or two that will help pay for the bills, and the rest of the time can be devoted to the startup.

At the start of 2013, with all the power of my fancy degrees and experience, I landed three jobs:

  • social media marketing with a firm that specialized in text messaging
  • adjunct professorship in sociology with a for-profit university that supported mostly rural and underrepresented students
  • my own company, which began as a portal for academics and ended as a platform for students to peer review one another

None of these jobs provided me with any healthcare coverage. If I could, I would go completely without it and press my luck against the volatility of the world. Unfortunately, due to a “pre-existing condition,” that just wasn’t an option for me. Like 15 million other people at that time, I logged onto and signed up for an account.

The process was cumbersome. I stared at insurance coverage details to see what made the most sense for my needs and affordability, creating elaborate spreadsheets that compared premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and overall likely out-of-pocket expenses.

I could not help but wonder how frustrating this process is for people who are not a) comfortable in front of a computer, b) speak or read English as their primary language, or c) able to do a thorough comparative analysis of its opaquely-described services. My mind kept going: what was it like for all of those people when they only dealt with the private sector?

Thus, for almost two years of my adult life, I was a beneficiary of Obamacare. Yes, I know it’s really known as the Affordable Care Act, but I don’t look at Obama’s name and think negative connotations.

I call it Obamacare out of respect.

Because of Obamacare, I’m not a filing clerk somewhere with meager benefits and an ocean of angst bottling up in my stomach. (That was the best case scenario for me — I could have been a lot, lot worse.) Instead, I had the freedom to explore my professional curiosities and ultimately discover a passion for supporting education, technology, and social justice.

My major critique: any national healthcare program needs to do much more to help the millions who still aren’t protected. Many people seem to have stable, dependable lives where things like healthcare, jobs, or security come almost naturally to them.

I’m not one of those people, and I’m not alone.

Life is messy, unpredictable, and chaotic, and sometimes you need something out there that protects you from such calamity. I’ve experienced a lifetime of that, so it was nice to have one less thing to worry about.

Thanks, Obamacare. You’ve certainly saved at least one life.