Life under Obamacare: ‘I don’t have it. But I’m not crying.’

September 26, 2013

When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, he declared that "health-care reform is no longer an unmet promise. It is the law of the land." Now, we get to see whether it works. Starting Oct. 1, millions of Americans who lack medical insurance or buy their own coverage will have their first chance to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare.

My colleagues and I have spent the last month interviewing some of these people, who you can read about here. Today, I'll be pulling out a few profiles of people I spoke with–and how their lives might change under the health overhaul. 

(Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Fatima Abukar has not had health insurance since arriving in the United States from Somalia a decade ago. The health law won’t change that. She is one of millions of people too poor to benefit from Obamacare.

Abukar, a legal resident, used to work at a nonprofit thrift store, but now relies on her children, with whom she lives, for financial support. She takes 10 medications, paid for by her family and nonprofit organizations, for chronic conditions including asthma, gastric ulcers, high cholesterol and knee and back pain. She wears five-year-old glasses with scratched lenses and a broken hinge.

Abukar’s doctor says she needs knee surgery, but Abukar said she can’t afford it. “It might be $1,000,” she said. To ease the pain, she wears a tattered blue brace. Abukar doesn’t qualify for Medicaid; Virginia has one of the strictest Medicaid standards in the country. And she won’t benefit from the Medicaid expansion. About half the states, including Virginia, have declined to take part.

About 8 million people who under the law would have been eligible for expanded Medicaid live in states that have decided not to participate, according to the Urban Institute.

Abukar won’t be permitted to buy subsidized insurance in the exchanges. Individuals with incomes below the federal poverty level ($11,490) aren’t eligible for subsidies. The law assumed these people would be covered by the Medicaid expansion. Abukar said she’ll continue to make do without insurance. “I don’t have it,” she said. “But I’m not crying.”

Related Links:

- Use this calculator to see what Obamacare will cost you.

- Have Obamacare questions? Wonkblog has 42 answers.

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Andrea Peterson · September 26, 2013