On Friday March 23, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, visited Minnesota to celebrate the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. The Secretary is visiting various cities across the country to hear women’s health care stories both so she can understand the realities of our current system, as well as how the law is changing lives in tangible ways. I had the privilege of attending the Minnesota gathering last Friday with my mother, Kathryn and a handful of other Minnesotan women whose lives have been changed by health care reform at the home of Minnesota Nurses Association President Linda Hamilton. Governor Dayton, Senator Franken, and Representative McCollum were also in attendance. I felt honored to be presented with this opportunity.
One by one, each woman shared her story. More often than not, the narratives shared were filled with emotional trauma, heartbreak and uncertainty due to lack of access to critical care or the financial means to pay for health care for themselves or their children.
Unfortunately, our stories are the norm across the United States; and there are millions more that speak to the terrible realities of what it means for individuals and families who experience long term lack of insurance. For me, hearing the stories of these women was, as it always is, a comforting as well as powerfully humbling experience. It is a reminder that I am not alone in my fears and struggles, but also that, while life is fragile, we are unbelievably strong in the face of adversity. Moreover, we are strongest when we have family, friends and community members to support us in our struggles.
Those of us who were gathered at that meeting are symbolic of what the Affordable Care Act can do for Minnesotans: It will allow a young woman battling breast cancer to work part-time without risking her COBRA health insurance, provide small businesses with options for insuring their employees, and provide myself and two other teenagers with pre-existing conditions access to health insurance without lifetime limits or the constant fear of being dropped. The law is not perfect, and it is complex, but it does save lives.
Minnesotans have an opportunity ahead of us to support our families and neighbors with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Now more than ever, we need to stand together and urge our leaders to create a system that will aid in the health of all Minnesotans. Life has no guarantees, especially when it comes to health — we need to support our fellow Minnesotans through life’s uncertain times.
Abby Schanfield is a student at the University of Minnesota and a leader with TakeAction Minnesota’s Together For Health Program. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, she can be insured through her parents until she is 26, and no longer has to worry about lifetime limits on healthcare or denials due to pre-existing conditions. See coverage of the event and Abby’s story in the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.