It might seem incredibly naïve and privileged, but when I moved to the U.S. from Australia as a dual citizen of both countries, I had never really thought about my health care. I attended college in the U.S. as an exchange student for one year prior to officially moving, but my health care was covered by the school. And growing up in Australia, government-funded health care was something I suppose I always took for granted and barely noticed.
But when I started a minimum wage job at a retail chain store that paid $7.25 an hour in North Carolina, health care became of central importance to me.
I waited for my Christmas vacation to Australia to visit the dentist or get any general check-ups. My mother would send my birth control pills to me in the mail, thanks to an extended prescription my doctor in Australia gave me. I did whatever I could to avoid U.S. health care costs.
One day, however, I noticed that a mole on my back had gotten pretty dark. With a family history of melanoma, I knew that I had to see a dermatologist urgently. Sure enough, the mole needed to be removed during my appointment which resulted in an expense of over $800. At the time, I was lucky to earn $800 a month depending on my work scheduling.
To afford this unplanned bill, I devised a plan that involved rationing a loaf of bread, a few bananas, and a few packets of ramen over the next couple of weeks. Somehow, I made it work. I felt stressed and embarrassed, but it made me aware of the crisis that was accessing health care in the U.S. Aside from the details, my story is not unusual. Millions of people, often in much more dire circumstances than mine, have had to sacrifice so much to protect their health. I could only imagine how I would have handled a more serious medical procedure with a higher cost, or what it would feel like if I had children to feed.
Some months later, I signed up for Obamacare and paid around $60 a month. I remember the first time I went to the pharmacist to pick up my birth control prescription and thought that there was an error when my receipt showed $0.00. I called my mother practically in tears to share the good news. Gaining health care through the ACA exchange changed my life so dramatically that I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I eventually sought a job working on the Obamacare campaign and helped to sign up millions of people.
Since that first mole, I’ve had to have a few more removed. Luckily, with insurance, rationing bread hasn’t been a concern. But if the ACA repeal bill passes the Senate, it could be a reality for so many who could have the essential – and sometimes emergency – care they deserve stripped from them. No one should have to choose between eating and taking care of their health. But apparently, that’s not of concern to our out-of-touch president and the GOP members trying to repeal the ACA. We must stop them.