THE BLOG
10/04/2013 02:32 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Obamacare: Does Obama Care About All Americans?

Early one Tuesday morning, I woke up to a jabbing pain in my lower stomach. At first, I thought it was just something I had eaten, so I took an over-the-counter medication to relieve my symptoms. But after an hour of sleeplessness, I knew the pain was from something else.

I woke my partner and asked him to drive me to my local hospital. While being admitted into the emergency room, the pain escalated into a stabbing sensation I never felt before. Still believing that I had food poisoning, I explained to the doctor what I had eaten that day. But after an examination of my abdomen and a CT scan, the doctor gave me different news. My appendix was the root of my pain, and I had to be transported, in an ambulance, to a bigger hospital with more operable medical facilities.

That's when my real fear began, but not because I was worried about going under the knife. I was scared because I am one of the 45 million people in America without health insurance.

I knew that a hospital stay and a potential surgery weren't going to come cheap. Being an undocumented American and low income earner, I hardly ever visit the doctor or hospital unless it is an extreme emergency. The last time I had health insurance was in high school and my premium was $120 dollars a month. After months of barely scraping by, my parents were forced to cancel my plan, as I hardly needed the insurance at the time.

In 2012, The Obama administration implemented Deferred Action, which granted immigrants a reprieve from deportation. However, soon after, the Obama Administration also announced that Deferred Action recipients would not be eligible for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The message appeared to be that even though we are "Americans in every single way but on paper," as the President said himself, we are not worthy of quality and affordable medical care.

At my caregivers' urgings, I left my local hospital to head to the medical center where I would have my surgery. I had to go in an ambulance rather than having my partner drive me because, even though I was worried about how much it would cost, my doctors feared my appendix could burst at any moment. Going into surgery, the last thought in my mind was, "How am I going to pay for all of this?"

A few weeks later, I got my answer when my bill arrived: $19, 686.21. That's more money than I make in two years, working part-time for minimum wage while trying to save for school.

Without a provided roadmap to citizenship or adequate healthcare coverage, millions of undocumented Americans ask themselves the same questions every time they visit a doctor's office or hospital. A lot of people I know who lack an immigration status will not see a doctor unless they are in excruciating pain or facing a severe illness. My mother, who suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, is one of those people.

Living in the shadows of the undocumented community, it sometimes feels as if society believes we should become immune to illness -- or, even worse, doesn't care if we seek or receive medical treatment. But we get cancer and diabetes and colds too, just like everyone else. We are your neighbors, friends, colleagues and fellow humans. And just like you, we pour countless hours of hard work into our jobs in order to provide for our families and ourselves.

My family and I have called North Carolina home for over two decades. While the Obama administration tries to extend an olive branch to the undocumented community with one hand, they continue to feed into anti-immigrant rhetoric with the other by failing to realize that denying us access to health care is un-American.

The hospital where I had my operation receives a grant that covers life-saving surgeries for low-income earners. I applied, but it's been a month and I haven't heard anything back. Without assistance from the hospital, I know I won't be able to pay back my medical expenses anytime soon. But I know my story isn't the only one out there, and my bill isn't the only one unpaid. Denying immigrants access to affordable health care will cost this nation well beyond the bottom line.

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