What Loss, Love, and Life Taught Me About Obamacare

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: WLP  ) 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 ...
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Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (12)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 5:32 PM, funkyvromero wrote:

    Good incite from a personal experience. Thanks for the info.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 5:36 PM, carroll56 wrote:

    Try being a contractor. I have to buy my insurance it went from $450 per month to over $1200. I have not been able to cover the cost changes, (no help from the government) so I'll have to pay the penalty and go without insurance. This was just another TAX on the upper middle class, ( the one's Obama was supposedly trying to help). I just hope you don't loose your job and have to work as a contractor to have a job and pay for Obama care.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 5:43 PM, xetn wrote:

    "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" There is no premium, there is a tax as described by the Supreme Court and the subsidy is also a tax.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 6:18 PM, patty2 wrote:

    If you develop a serious illness, due to the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance company will not be able to drop your coverage. If you, like my young 25 year old daughter, has the bad luck to have a terrible disease like juvenile onset diabetes, you will be able to get health insurance and it may save your life. Then you won't be complaining that it is a "tax".

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 7:11 PM, investisseuse wrote:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope your wife feels better soon.

  • Report this Comment On March 17, 2014, at 8:42 PM, KickBackAt40 wrote:

    As far as I'm concerned, Obumacare is going to make a bum out of all of us. My insurance company cancelled our policies, and we were unable to keep it as promised. Our deductible went up along with our premiums... and that was still after we put the kids on medicaid and you other taxpayers get to subsidize the insurance for my wife and I. I can't wait for the fireworks when small businesses get to dump all their workers onto the ACA! Stupidest legislation ever enacted. I can still recall Pelosi saying.. "I don't know what's in it... but trust us!"

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 7:00 AM, wvowell wrote:

    I'm sorry for your loss. I truly mean that.

    However, how can you happily tout this government take over of our health care system.

    A socialist system that takes from the middle class and above and redistributes the wealth.

    You fail to compare what you had prior to ACA in coverage and deductibles. Would you have been better off prior to ACA? Why didn't you put that in your article?

    You Obama soldiers just continue to attempt to feed us one lie after another about the truth of this socialist take over.

    Steve let's hear the other side of your story based on what it would have been like before ACA!!

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 7:20 AM, dbtheonly wrote:

    Steve,

    Allow me to add what I can to ease your pain. It ain't much but it's there.

    Getting away from the sloganeering, "SOCIALISM" , "TAX", "GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER"; I'd suggest that your situation shows the need for insurance.

    You appear young, healthy, and might well assume no need for insurance. Disastrous illnesses can strike anytime, any where.

    When you're up to it; I'd like to debate the proposition that private, for profit, insurance companies will always be trying to make a profit. i.e. take in in premiums more than they spend on health care for the insured and their overhead. This then, puts their interests at odds with their insureds. You don't see the nut-jobs whining about, "SOCIALISM" , "TAX", "GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER"; for Police and Fire Protection. I'll contend that Health Care is a similar service.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 10:05 AM, gogopoker wrote:

    i took my wife and 2 year old daughter on a vacation to Alaska. shortly after the chartered boat dropped us off at a vacation cabin on an island my wife started feeling ill. she had an eptopic pregnancy that we did not even know at the time. things turned bad fast on on the evening of that first day i had to call a float plane to pick us up. a couple hours later we were in a hospital in Wrangell and the ultrasound showed the eptopic pregancy. unfortunately the Dr there was not able to do the procedure and since by this time it was a life or death situation with serious internal bleeding we were airlifted on a medical flight to Ketchikan. everything turned out fine. the bill for an emergency jet life flight was over $17,000. the total was over $24,000 by the time we were finished. luckily i had purchased a health plan for our small business and it covered much of the costs. it is quite obvious to me now why having a health plan is so important even if you are healthy and feel you don't need it. unexpected things can happen at any time. even on the first day of a week long vacation in alaska.

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 12:01 PM, TMFSymington wrote:

    Thanks for all the comments and well-wishes everyone. I really appreciate it.

    A few thoughts which might answer multiple questions:

    @carroll56: I am a contractor. Have you looked at your marketplace? I know it varies by state and locale, but for my family of four in Montana, the most expensive gold-level plan on HealthCare.gov was right around $900 without the help of subsidies. There were also many lower-tier plans at a much lower cost.

    This in mind, some good friends of ours in the same city (family of four) who did qualify for the subsidies signed up for a higher-tier plan for around $200/mo. Amazing deal.

    @xetn: Premiums still go to your insurer, not the governent, so not a tax. The subsidies are a tax credit.

    @patty2: Thanks so much for sharing.

    @KickBackAt40: Was your plan introduced or changed after the ACA was passed in March, 2010? Any plans held before that -- even if they didn't meet ACA's requirements -- were grandfathered in and could not legally be dropped.

    @dbtheonly: Thanks for refraining. :-) And you're correct; by and large, my family is young and healthy, but we've obviously learned the value of insurance the hard way. Your debate might also be interesting (good arguments to be made for both sides) but I'll pass for now. Might make for a good article later, though, so will keep you posted.

    @wvowell: Thank you for your condolence. Know I'm planning another article soon to delve into my personal situation in more detail. Long story short: In Feb. 2013, I voluntarily left my full-time job of 7 years -- cushy benefits and all -- to accept a contract writing for the Fool. In my old job, and after my former employer chipped in, I was paying under $100/mo for a family plan which exceeded Obamacare's standards. However, under my new status as a contractor who wasn't eligible for healthcare with the Fool, we temporarily signed up for a high-deductible plan with low premiums ($334/mo) which was introduced after the ACA's passing -- one which Assurant knew would eventually need to be modified to meet Obamacare's standards. When it was, my premiums more than doubled to $742/mo. -- on par with similar plans offered to me at HealthCare.gov.

    That's not the government's fault, but rather Assurant taking advantage of knowing some people would likely stay with them given the alternatives. Morally questionable? Absolutely. Illegal? Nope.

    I'm not an "Obama soldier," and certainly am not lying. Instead, as I indicated with my last sub-head in the article, I'm putting politics aside and telling it like I see it.

    @gogopoker: Thanks so much for sharing. I'm lucky enough to work at home, where my daughter was able to alert me as my wife lay helpless on the floor. I can't imagine the fear you went through in a remote area without immediate assistance, but I'm happy it all turned out okay.

    Thanks again for reading and commenting, everyone, and Fool on.

    Steve (TMFSymington)

  • Report this Comment On March 18, 2014, at 12:04 PM, elair wrote:

    Steve,your article on health care was ill-advised.It had a strong whiff of propaganda-intentional or not.Your ability to be an analyst is now questionable as is all of Motley Fool.You seem too open to not only accept but recommend a product that is rife with lies and deception. Troubling.

  • Report this Comment On March 19, 2014, at 8:56 AM, trdhrdr007 wrote:

    The wife & I have been self-employed for years. Last year we had a deductible of $3000 each with a premium of $306 monthly. We are signed up through the ACA now due to our policy being cancelled. Deductible is now $6350 each with a premium of $567 monthly. We do qualify for a subsidy so our monthly cost is less. That doesn't mean we are foolish enough to think we are getting better(or equal) coverage for less total cost. The insurance company is still getting the whole $567.

    Before the naysayers start babbling about how my old policy was a garbage policy know this. We both had major surgeries under the old policy. The insurance company paid as promised & we were not dropped or denied coverage.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2014, at 6:58 PM, thidmark wrote:

    A pitch for the government in addition to my regular Motley Fool sales pitch ... thanks!

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2014, at 2:01 AM, Tiger69 wrote:

    For some, news of anything positive about the ACA is anathema. Certainly, there are some who pay more under the ACA. Many of those are receiving better coverage that protects both them against catastrophic loss AND us against the costs to the system of those unwilling to participate in health insurance. I have had several experiences in both France and the UK with their "socialistic" systems. We Americans can learn a lot from both of them if we are not too stubborn to admit that sometimes others have some good ideas that we should emulate. Even the most ardent supporters of Obamacare will admit that it is not perfect, but only a start to improving the quality and availability of healthcare while attempting to get its runaway costs under control. If opponents would spend a fraction of their time trying to reform and improve the ACA with the above goals in mind rather than trying to abolish it and return us to the sad state that preceded it, we might see a better, more effective form of national insurance from which we can all benefit. But, name calling will get us nowhere.

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