The very best people to describe what having new health insurance means -- what it feels like -- isn't me or any White House policy staffer. It's not even the President.
It's anyone who woke up on the morning of January 1st with the peace of mind, security, and quiet dignity that comes with taking your health care into your own hands. It's you. Or your neighbor, coworker, sister, or partner. We've been hearing from a lot of those people. The stories are powerful, and they keep coming in.
There's been a lot of media chatter about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, but to understand what it really means to millions of Americans, read what these 10 had to say about how it's changed their lives and their families' - and if you want, join them and share a story of your own.
JoAnn S., Florida
"I haven't had insurance in years and my husband had a shared insurance junk-type policy. The day I signed up on Dec 10, I actually cried when the application went through. I got my first premium notice in the mail yesterday and was never so happy to see a bill before."
Gayla W., New Hampshire
"I lost my job last April. My partner and I both have pre-existing conditions so our only option was to COBRA my employer-provided plan -- at a cost of $1,676 a month. It was a good plan, but now we have a comparable plan through the ACA for $87 a month. I can't describe just how life changing this is for us. We can afford to live again."
Stella R., California
"For me this makes all the difference between having good health or not. I recently had a CAT scan (which I had to pay out of pocket for) because I was losing a lot of weight. It turns out that something was found and now I will need to see specialists and have further procedures done to make sure it is not cancer. My first appointment is on January 6 with a specialist. If I did not have health insurance, I would not be able to see a specialist. It would wipe out any savings I have and leave me medically at high risk."
Brian F., Florida
"I have not had Insurance for over 10 years. I had a pre-existing condition that made me uninsurable -- even though I was perfectly healthy. The last quote I got was in 2008: It was $1,750 a month with a $10,000 deductible. There was no way to ever afford that. ...This insurance changes everything for me. I do not have to worry anymore when I get a sore throat or an infected cut that I will have to go to the emergency room -- run up thousands in bills and then have to file bankruptcy. This is a great day. Thank you for the ACA. It is a life changer."
Elina K., Colorado
"My mom, who is 61 and works as a freelance Russian interpreter in Denver, went to the ER in November. She, her partner and myself are uninsured. Tests confirmed she had a major blockage and would need surgery. The mass appears to be cancerous and is pushing down on her internal organs. She has been in severe pain for weeks. ... Last night, around 3 a.m., she was admitted to the hospital and will be having surgery which she had to put off until her ACA policy kicked in at midnight. She now has expert care in a facility that in less than 24 hours changed her medication and treated her symptoms with noticeable results. When my stepdad came home tonight, exhausted after spending all day at the hospital, all he could say was 'thank god for Obamacare' ...It may well end up saving her life."
Kendra S., Oklahoma
"Just this past October, my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This devastating news was compounded by the fact we were not insured, my husband could no longer work, and the rapid medical procedures that occurred quickly ran up thousands of dollars that we don't have the money to pay. We quickly began researching the ACA, made an appointment with a local Community Care office and after many hours of research, to determine the coverage that we could afford. We are so greatful for the ACA. With the incredibly terrible stress that has befallen upon our family, at least now we know his medical expenses are covered."
Rachelle L., Florida
"My 28-year-old daughter was able to get healthcare coverage on her own for the first time through the ACA. She has a pre-existing condition, a genetic kidney disease that prevented her from getting coverage in 2009 at the age of 24 when she had to come off of our policy due to the age requirement. Her Cobra payments were $650 a month because she could not get more reasonable private coverage due to her pre-existing condition. In 2010, she was able to come back on our BCBS plan because of the ACA and was able to remain there until she finished school. We signed her up through the website and paid for her plan directly through Cigna on December 2: $298/month for a silver plan with a $0 deductible!!! She received her new insurance card on December 27th for coverage starting Jan 1!!!! We now have peace of mind that all of her medical needs will be covered at a reasonable cost."
Curtis D., Washington
"Our new coverage has begun. I am 62, and my wife is 55. We are both self employed and neither of us have had coverage for the past seven years. Thankfully we are both pretty healthy, but it feels good to know we can schedule a checkup and take care of any lingering issues we've been putting off. Thank you for making improvements to the health care of the country."
Kelly M., Maryland
"I have a new plan. I haven't had insurance for years. When I applied for insurance before, I was denied for pre-existing conditions, even for plans with huge deductibles. I signed up on the Maryland Healthcare Exchange back in October, and by January 1st, I was holding an insurance card from Carefirst Blueshield and have already had my first doctor's appointment. It works. I am proof. And I'm so grateful that I can take care of myself with dignity without having to go to the ER whenever I'm sick or have to spend half of my paycheck at an urgent care center. I can do all of the preventative measures that I have been putting off, and get back on the road to health. It's a good feeling."
Kate S., Connecticut
"This healthcare reform is a life changing event for my family. My husband and I have had to carry our own insurance for the past 25 years and, with the family insurance we had, we were paying $2500.00 a MONTH for coverage, which we could not afford. Once the children graduated from high school, we had to take them off our policy because we could not afford it anymore. ... We have never been high wage earners and the costs of our insurance have for years been an impossible burden. Now that the system is fair and goes by our income, we finally may be able to set money aside and save for our future."
Simply put, for millions of Americans: Health reform matters.