The US Supreme Court has upheld President Barack Obama's health care law. While not everyone is happy with the ruling, it has ensured -- barring any future repeal -- that there is a potential for great change in the lives of millions of disabled Americans.
How? Ask an adult who is physically disabled and unemployed why they are not working and nine times out of ten you will get the same answer -- they are afraid of losing their state health insurance or of being removed from their parents' policy. For the majority of those who are able and willing to work, the one thing that has been stopping them is health insurance.
I have spina bifida and when my son was a toddler, I was a single mother. I quickly became fed up with not being able to provide for myself and my child out of the fear that I would not have health insurance. The 600-and-some-odd dollars we received from the government was not enough to live on, so I set out to find a job.
As many Americans know, not all jobs come with benefits, and such was the case with the one I acquired after much searching. Initially, I was making more money and was able to provide a better life for both of us than we had before, but I soon realized that if my health took a turn for the worse, I would be in a world of trouble.
Spina bifida, like all disabilities, comes with its own set of complications. For people living with my condition, kidney problems are par for the course. I have been on medication my entire life to prevent infections and kidney damage. When I began working, I lost my Medicaid and could not afford the medication I needed, so I went without. As a result, I had to make several trips to the emergency room for severe kidney infections. I would get so sick that my kidneys would bleed and they would put me on IV antibiotics. The doctors would tell me to take my medicine, but it was not that simple. Without insurance, the ER was the only way I could be seen by a medical professional.
I was caught in a catch-22. Yes, I was making more money working, but now I was without health insurance and was growing deeper in debt with each hospital visit.
The maddening cycle went on for a few more years and there were several more costly trips to the ER. But I was stuck. I couldn't quit my job and go back to the meager monthly government allotment my son and I had been receiving. I had too many responsibilities -- a car, mortgage, utility bills, etc.
I tried to get insurance on my own, but was also told that was an issue because of my "preexisting condition." The insurance was either unavailable or at a cost that was far more than my monthly income.
At this time, I was keenly aware that kidney failure is a major cause of death for people with spina bifida. There was no mistaking where I would be headed if things didn't change.
Thankfully, my circumstances did eventually change and I was able to find a job with good insurance benefits. While health care is not an issue for me now, I will always have a reminder of those times when it was. And, of course, I still suffer from damage I did to my kidneys because of my choice to work.
So before you judge the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), informally referred to as Obamacare, know there are millions of other disabled Americans who want to join the work force, but are afraid to do so. Like I was, they are well aware that there is a very real possibility that their needs will not be taken care of. As a result, there is a very real possibility that they will die early, and what salary would be worth 20, or even 10 years off your life expectancy?
Obamacare may not be perfect. Nothing will be the 'be all and end all' for everyone, but for the disabled community, it finally puts us in a position where we have a fighting chance at a decent life -- one where we can find employment and say goodbye to government assistance.
We are now on an equal playing field and I look forward to seeing the lives of millions of disabled Americans improve.
I say thank you to President Obama. He has changed the lives of many Americans who felt their healthcare situation would always be hopeless.