What Loss, Love, and Life Taught Me About Obamacare

Love it or hate it, sometimes adversity can provide the best perspective.

Mar 15, 2014 at 11:00AM

Last fall, my wife and I were elated to learn we were pregnant with our third child.

We'd quietly planned for it to happen but still found ourselves overjoyed at the sudden reality of adding another member to our family. Over the next two months, we mulled names, tried to guess the gender, and -- though it was still early -- broke the news to our 6-year-old daughter. We decided we'd tell the rest of our family on Thanksgiving Day by outfitting our 3-year-old boy with a newly purchased "big brother" shirt.

But something wasn't right.

My wife unsurprisingly felt sick, but it wasn't like the others. More uncomfortable. Less nauseous. Just ... different. 

Loss
Fast-forward to the day before Thanksgiving. I was downstairs, starting a new article for the Fool.

My daughter came bounding into my office, armed with her usual frenzied tone and exclaiming, "Mommy needs your help!"

I nodded my head, my eyes still fixed on a particularly troublesome sentence. Then she grabbed my wrist, looked me in the eyes, and insisted in a more serious, almost mature voice, "She needs your help. Right now."

My heart sank when I found my wife doubled over on the bathroom floor, trying not to pass out from the pain.

A few hours and one unexpected surgery later, I would learn it was an ectopic pregnancy. The surgeon had removed her left Fallopian tube -- and, with it, the pregnancy -- which had ruptured, causing heavy internal bleeding and threatening the life of my better half.

Love
It goes without saying I love my family dearly, and it almost hurt more than anything to see them weather such an ordeal. 

My wife tried not to cry in the days following the surgery, mostly because it literally hurt to do so. The kids and I cried for her instead. Even now, despite some of my more lighthearted musings here at the Fool, I'll readily admit the magnitude of it all still weighs on me.

I also know it could have been worse. 

My wife is still here, after all. Secondarily, our high-deductible insurance from Assurant (NYSE:AIZ) Health also helped lessen our financial burden.

And no, I didn't sign up for my coverage through Obamacare's HealthCare.gov Web portal.
 
In fact, Assurant voluntarily deferred participating in Obamacare's exchanges in early 2013 -- a curious choice, considering other insurers like WellPoint (NYSE:ANTM) were aggressively targeting what appeared to be a captive pool of prospective customers. As of the end of January, Wellpoint had already profitably signed up more than 500,000 new customers directly through Obamacare's marketplaces.

Obamacare's reach is longer than you think
You might recall back in October -- which was only six weeks before the surgery -- I teamed up with fellow Fools Sean Williams and Travis Hoium to give you an idea of what it's like to apply for Obamacare on the new state and federal health care exchanges. Unfortunately, serious glitches on the HealthCare.gov portal prevented me from actually completing the signup process then. And even if had signed up, my coverage wouldn't have kicked in until Jan. 1.
 
In the meantime, Assurant was already capitalizing on its decision to first help people understand how the changes would affect them, and then to offer plans to suit their individual needs. It turned out to be a great move; last month, Assurant Health reported increased market share along with its record fourth-quarter sales of $319 million, thanks to "significant activity prompted by the first open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act."

In short, even if people aren't exactly flocking en masse to Obamacare's online insurance marketplaces, they're still signing up for health insurance elsewhere precisely because of the new individual mandate.

Life
But life wasn't quite done with our family yet.
 
The good news? We're expecting another little one to arrive in late September, and this time baby is healthy and growing in the right place.
 
However, my wife is currently suffering from morning (and afternoon, and evening) sickness with a severity I didn't even know was possible. We even ended up in the emergency room for dehydration on Super Bowl Sunday, and then returned three more times for additional IV fluids over the next several weeks when nothing else seemed to help it abate. Finally, everything culminated in a three-day hospital stay late last week.
 
Unfortunately, this all happened shortly after the turn of the calendar year, just after our large deductible had reset itself. Heck, by the time we reach our max out of pocket -- which looks increasingly likely by the day -- I could have purchased a reasonably nice car or maxed out contributions to both my regular and Roth IRAs this year. In fact, it still seems accurate to describe my plan as "disaster insurance," basically putting a lid on my expenses should something terrible happen.

While ours may be an exceptional case, I've learned the hard way over the past four months that terrible things do happen. And when they do, that seemingly hefty monthly premium we pay for health insurance starts to looks much more reasonable.

If that isn't enough, remember that Obamacare also prohibits denial of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, ensures that your plan will cover most preventative benefits with no out of pocket cost to you, and removes previously imposed lifetime coverage limits.

Put politics aside and give it a look
Better yet, if you sign up through your ACA exchange by the March 31 open enrollment deadline, your premium or out-of-pocket costs might not be so hefty at all, thanks to government subsidies that are being offered to many low- and middle-income households.
 
In fact, to avoid incurring penalties for violation of the individual mandate, you must sign up for a qualifying plan by that March 31, anyway. In that case, why not take a few minutes to visit your state's marketplace to see what it has to offer?

You might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

Still have questions? We have answers ...
Obamacare seems complex, but it doesn't have to be. In only minutes, you can learn the critical facts you need to know in a special free report called "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare." This free guide contains the key information and money-making advice that every American must know. Please click here to access your free copy.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of WellPoint. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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