"I would be doomed," said the 62-year-old former music teacher, who has a bad heart, diabetes and brittle bones and thinks he's only alive with the help of 27 expensive prescription medications. "I feel like a political piñata at this point. They literally have my life in their hands."
Berry spoke recently at the
Some 20 million people who were once uninsured now have coverage under the law, enacted in 2010 and commonly called Obamacare. The percentage of uninsured non-elderly citizens has likewise dropped to a historic low of 10 percent from 16.6 percent in 2014.
Nationwide, advisers like those at Rodgers say they are being inundated by anger and worry in the run-up to
As for Obamacare: "It's life and death to some people. I mean, this is not a game," said
So, too, is the pitch and frustration in
At 63, the
"I've never been sickly," she said. "I've been blessed. No diabetes. No high blood pressure."
Self-employed, she signed up for Obamacare at
"Oh, my God, yes!" Ward-Bledsoe said. She lauded the Affordable Care Act simply for the peace of mind it has given her. For years, before its availability, Ward-Bledsoe gambled with her health, going without insurance. It wasn't because she wanted to.
"It was just not affordable," she said. "Even back in the '90s, for me to call around to try to get some health insurance, it was damned near as much as my mortgage, plus a
"For them (politicians) to try to tamper with it, to take people like me back damned near 20 to 30 years -- to have nothing again, which is going to cause people to have to file bankruptcies, to fall back due to health bills and hospitalizations -- that is not helping 'we the people.' "
As a taxpayer, it angers her that repeal will come at the hands of lawmakers who get their health care paid for by taxpayers.
"Let them go without it!" Ward-Bledsoe said. "
For Ward-Bledsoe and others with Obamacare coverage, two big questions loom: If Trump and
Numerous experts have opined that repealing the ACA without replacing it would foment political uproar, as it would effectively kick 20 million people off insurance rolls.
A slight majority of Americans -- 51 percent -- favor repealing Obamacare, according to a Gallup poll last month. And many small companies dislike the law, advocates say, for its increasing premiums, its employer mandate -- forcing businesses with 50 or more workers to offer coverage or pay penalties -- and the complexity of meeting its reporting requirements.
But the plans remain popular with people who have them; a
She said she has no admiration for Trump. Nor is she convinced that the president-elect will adhere to his recent statement that whatever new health insurance plan that he and a Republican-controlled
"Let me tell you," Pace said. "If they did remove (coverage for) pre-existing conditions, I'm not buying your health insurance. You can fine me all you want. When I go the hospital, your ass can pay for it. I have no money. You can't come after me."
Pace, 61, worked for 15 years for
Now, as soon as she turns 62 in December, she will draw her income exclusively from
"I knew that when I left (my job) I had to have health care," said Pace, who takes medications to manage conditions that include arthritis and bipolar disorder. "I knew that if I couldn't get it under the Affordable Care Act, I would be pretty much screwed because of pre-existing conditions -- besides the fact that it is so expensive.
Under Obamacare, Pace received a tax credit to offset the cost of what otherwise would have been several hundred dollars in monthly premiums.
Her monthly premium:
"Coverage is excellent!" Pace said. "There is almost no deductible. It is better coverage than I've had the last two years."
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are required to include the same set of guaranteed essential benefits.
The most popular include coverage for pre-existing conditions; prescription drug coverage; and oral health and vision coverage for children. Also required is the provision that dependents be covered under their parents' plans up to age 26.
Trump, post-election, also indicated that the age 26 benefit would remain.
Yet, in the last two years, criticism of Obamacare has mounted as a number of insurance carriers that once offered coverage in the HealthCare.gov marketplace have now abandoned it, finding that they are losing money.
Older, sicker Americans signed up for Obamacare, but younger, healthier clients did not enroll in the numbers expected. Choices on policies have narrowed, and premiums increased.
About 75 percent of people using Obamacare in 2017 are still expected to be able to get policies for less than about
The Kaiser survey found that while 68 percent were satisfied with their premiums in 2014, that number dropped to 59 percent in 2016.
'It would be devastating'
Berry, the music teacher with 27 prescriptions, cataloged his illnesses during his visit to
A 20-year history of ulcerative colitis led to him taking the drug Prednisone, which caused him to gain weight.
"I ended up putting on 150 pounds," Berry said. "I came down with diabetes, high blood pressure...a degenerative bone disease."
His bones are so brittle, a high school student where he taught in
"I've had five operations on this arm," he said, touching his right. "I've had both knees. I've had a double hip repair."
His right eye has been repaired with wire mesh. On top of that, Berry suffers pericarditis, swelling of the tissues around his heart.
"There are more medications than I can keep track of," he said.
His wife has kept track. Age 66,
They have done the math. Her employer-sponsored health insurance,
"It would be devastating,"
Logged on to HealthCare.gov, Torres, the counselor, called up a number of plans. Based on income,
He settled on a Cigna plan. Cost:
The deductible would be
"That's the one I want," Berry said.
Until Republican leaders produce a detailed plan for replacing Obamacare, Torres said, he can only tell clients so much about the future after they sign up for coverage to begin
"They're worried," he said. "People say, 'Am I going to have insurance next year?' I tell them I think that next year you're probably OK. The federal government has already signed agreements with insurance companies for 2017. They're going to start before the new president takes office.
"That being said, I'm sure they'll make changes. How they happen, when they happen, we have no idea."
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