Life under Obamacare: ‘My boss said to tough it out.’

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. 

Maryland resident Aniela Russo. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Towson resident Aniela Russo vividly remembers how it felt to have a heart attack: It was January 2012 and she was working as a make-up artist at a charity benefit.

“I wasn’t feeling well, I had numbness in my right arm, I felt really fatigued,” she said. “I was one of the senior make-up artists there and my boss said to tough it out.”

The middle-aged single mother of three had heart bypass surgery that Valentine’s Day, and since then has had multiple surgeries for a genetic heart condition. Russo is unemployed, and she and her two youngest children are covered by Medicaid.

But Russo is about to go back to work as a self-employed real estate agent, and her income will probably rise enough that she will be ineligible for Medicaid.

That means she’ll be turning to the Maryland marketplace to buy private insurance. Before the Affordable Care Act, she assumes she would have been rejected because of her medical history. She figures she never would have passed an insurer’s physical.

“If they look at me, they’re going to see I have all these scars,” Russo said.

The health law bars insurers from rejecting people with preexisting medical conditions, or charging them more.

If Russo earns about $30,000 next year, as she’s expecting, she would qualify for a $350 monthly subsidy to purchase family coverage on the exchange.

She would pay $104 a month for a moderately priced plan, and have no premium at all for the cheapest one.

Besides cost, she has another big question: Will she be able to see her same doctors? That answer isn’t in.

Related Links:

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

- Have Obamacare questions? Wonkblog has 42 answers.

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Dylan Matthews · September 26, 2013