Affordable healthcare changed my life... Don't take that away

Kim Thomas relies on quality and affordable care that keeps her healthy enough to work

My name is Kim Thomas. I’m a home care worker from Raleigh, NC. I became a home care provider after caring for my terminally-ill mother. I assist with activities of daily living —such as toileting, bathing, mobility, meal preparation, and medication reminders— that make it possible for seniors and people with disabilities to live at home with dignity and independence.  I have a true passion for caregiving.

I became a Certified Nursing Assistant and got certified to care for patients with Alzheimer’s, dementia, diabetes and cancer, among others.

And I work hard, about 100 hours a week or more. I work 16-hour shifts Monday through Saturday and three 14-hour night shifts each week. I don’t receive paid time off, holidays, vacation, sick time, health insurance, or retirement benefits. And still, my wages are so low, $8 or $9 per hour, that I struggle to get by.

Though my job is all about taking care of people, I found it hard to take care of myself before the Affordable Care Act. I have diabetes and had a hard time finding coverage because of this pre-existing condition.

I used to go to the Emergency Room and pay $100 a visit for diabetes medication. But I wasn’t getting the care I needed to stay healthy and work hard for my family

After weeks of rejections, I was able to get a “high risk” plan for $479 per month with huge deductibles.

Not long after that, I got really sick. I needed to go to the hospital. But I was scared of using my insurance plan—scared they would take it away from me. I finally crawled across the floor to call 911. Doctors determined my gallbladder had ruptured and I needed surgery. I kept telling them I couldn’t afford it.

I was in the hospital for 5 days. I came home to a $3,000 hospital bill and a note from my insurance company that my premium was being raised to more than $800 per month. I couldn’t afford it. I sometimes missed car insurance payments—and I need my car to get to work.

When the Affordable Care Act went into effect, I was able to get covered for $73.28 per month.

Now, I get my diabetes medication at the pharmacy for $4, instead of haphazard $100 ER visits.

Without the Affordable Care Act, I wouldn’t be able to manage my diabetes. If it goes away, I am scared of the impact it will have on my life, including my ability to work and support my family.

I can’t believe someone would want to take this healthcare away from the American people. As a home care worker, it’s not just me who depends on Obamacare and other programs such as Medicaid, it’s my consumers, too, who receive Medicaid coverage. Medicaid is the largest provider of long term care coverage in the country and more specifically home and community based care.  Many of my consumers would be unable to remain in their homes or get the life-saving care they need if it were not for Medicaid.  In fact, one of my consumers had a massive stroke and lost his ability to speak. Without Medicaid coverage, he would be unable to afford his medications – putting him at risk for another stroke.      

If I lose my health coverage, if I’m no longer covered because of a pre-existing condition, if I have to go back to paying $800 per month for health insurance, it will cause chaos in my life.  If the Medicaid program is cut and if I no longer have a job or my hours are reduced and my consumers don’t have access to the care they need, it will not only cause chaos in my life, but chaos in their lives as well.

The Affordable Care Act and Medicaid have changed my life and the life of my consumers for the better. It has made me healthier and able to work hard to support my family. Please don’t take that away.

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