How 4 Americans say Obamacare helped or hurt them


— As Senate Republicans have picked up efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act, Americans have taken to social media and elsewhere to share stories of how they believe Obamacare has helped them or hurt them.

The 2010 health care reform law has long been polarizing: Some 51% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the ACA last month, while 41% had an unfavorable view, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

The public was more sour on Obamacare in November, when Donald Trump was elected President. About 45% had a negative view of it then, against 43% with a positive one, Kaiser says.

Here’s what some people told CNN about how they say current health care laws affected them:

Ashley Ruiz: ACA and Medicaid lift me and my son

Florida resident Ashley Ruiz is grateful for Obamacare regulations and safety-net spending, not least because of otherwise crushing costs for her special-needs son.

A Medicaid-funded program fully covers Jackson, 4, because he is disabled, with a rare skull deformity and adrenal problems. He received more than $250,000 worth of care in his first 6 months, including removal of part of his skull. Another surgery put bone grafts and titanium plates in his head.

He sees dozens of specialists on a yearly basis for the deformity alone, and receives therapy for autism.

Medicaid insures about two in five children and the same share of the disabled. Medicaid existed long before Obamacare, but as part of potential ACA replacement, lawmakers are considering cutting federal Medicaid support.

It’s unclear how Medicaid recipients would be affected. But Ruiz, a 29-year-old divorced mother of two, is concerned.

“I don’t think people understand that when you deal with a special needs child — once you are able to find a plan that covers you, it’s such a precious commodity. I think the fear for me and any parent like me is that there’s a potential that would be ripped away.”

She works at a small business that gives her flexibility to care for Jackson and her older son. But the job offers no insurance, so she has no coverage.

Ruiz relied on the ACA itself when Jackson was born. She and her then-husband didn’t have access to affordable insurance themselves. But because she was under 26, her stepfather’s insurance covered $100,000 in costs including an emergency C-section.

Melanie Brightwell: Obamacare failed me

Melanie Brightwell says she can’t afford individual insurance through the federally run exchange and keeps getting rejected for Medicaid despite making less than $12,000 annually.

Brightwell, 52, of Georgia’s Peachtree City area, says she had a full-time job and insurance, but received medical services worth more than $1 million in the last two years she was insured, including two major abdominal surgeries. She was laid off in 2015, months after her last operation, from her job as a sales assistant for a media group.

She now works part time, not yet able to land something full time. The cheapest monthly premiums for individual insurance she’s found, she said, ranged from $250 to $400, which she can’t afford.

Brightwell shares living expenses with her retired mother. She says Georgia won’t explain why it rejects her for Medicaid; she has retirement savings, which she says she’s tapped twice for car repairs. She visits discount clinics for occasional checkups, but cannot afford to see specialists recommended for her conditions.

“I was promised every American would get coverage, regardless of income,” she said of Obamacare. “Didn’t happen.”

She said she hopes to eventually qualify for Social Security disability programs, which would lead to Medicare coverage. She said she believes Obamacare is inefficient and overly regulated, driving up costs putting affordable and effective insurance out of reach for many.

Joshua Grubbs: Obamacare protects my toddler

Joshua Grubbs, an assistant professor at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, would have employer-provided insurance with or without the ACA reforms. But Obamacare protections, he says, ensure his son will keep getting the life-sustaining treatment he needs.

Grubbs’ 2-year-old son, Brantley, has cystic fibrosis. Current respiratory treatments, specialist visits and prescriptions would cost $60,000 a year without insurance, Grubbs said — but that figure would rise by tens of thousands of dollars should Brantley need hospitalizations or surgeries.

Obamacare bans lifetime and annual dollar limits on most benefits, and prevents insurers from refusing coverage or charging more for conditions that exist before new coverage starts. That ensures Brantley gets the kind of quality care that could extend his life, his father says.

“We do have insurance — good insurance — but we need protections for pre-existing conditions; and because cystic fibrosis is such an expensive disease to treat, we need no lifetime caps,” he said.

Even with his father’s insurance, Brantley gets supplemental coverage from Ohio’s Bureau for Children with Medical Handicaps, funded in part by federal grants. The GOP’s talk of cuts to systems like Medicaid as part of health care reform makes Grubbs worry about the future of programs like BCMH and greater out-of-pocket expenses.

Businessman: Obamacare hurt sales, led to job cuts

Andy Furniss says Obamacare hurt his medical equipment business several ways — and had to cut full-time positions as a result.

Ohio-based Furniss Corp. makes knee rehabilitation devices for hospitals and wholesalers. To help pay for Obamacare, the government levied a 2.3% tax on the gross sales of medical devices from 2013 through 2015.

That cut deeply into revenue for a company hoping to make 5% net sales profits. To adjust, Furniss reined in bulk discounts, but that may have hurt sales volume. The business operated at a loss in 2014.

Furniss also believes demand dropped as customers dealt with rising costs of insuring their own workers. Furniss Corp. itself, which offers health insurance to its 11 current full-time workers, saw its premiums rise faster than in pre-Obamacare years, which Furniss attributes in part to the ACA raising requirements of what plans must cover.

Furniss cut some full-time positions and stopped research and development for a shoulder product, he said.

He said his business recovered somewhat after the tax was suspended in 2016. The suspension ends in January, so he hopes for a permanent tax repeal.

“You get a helpless feeling. I can deal with competition, but you cannot fight Washington,” he said.