Late one night about twelve years ago, our baby daughter Sasha woke up sick. When we took her to our pediatrician the next morning, he took one look at her and sent us straight to the emergency room. He was worried that Sasha might have meningitis – and he was right.
But we were lucky. While our finances weren’t exactly in great shape back then – we were still struggling to pay off our student loans and pay down our mortgage – we had health insurance. So during the three long days Sasha spent in the hospital, our only worry was about her health because we knew the bills would be covered. And fortunately, while her care must have been terribly expensive, it didn’t come anywhere near triggering her lifetime insurance caps.
Sadly, too many families with medical crises like ours aren’t so fortunate. Week after week, my husband and I hear from mothers whose children have serious illnesses, or whose babies were born prematurely, requiring months or years of special care. As a result, these kids have blown through their lifetime caps by the time they reach elementary school. We also hear from parents whose children were diagnosed with conditions like asthma, or diabetes, or cancer who have to pay outrageous rates for health insurance because those illnesses are considered pre-existing conditions.
For decades, these kinds of coverage caps and this kind of discrimination were perfectly legal, so many parents were terrified of losing or leaving their jobs because they knew they would be unable to afford insurance for their families. And many kids grew up terrified of aging out of their parents’ insurance plans because they knew they could never afford coverage on their own.
Fortunately, under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and they can no longer put lifetime caps on your insurance coverage. In addition, kids can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. And for families who don’t have insurance, you can now go to the Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov, and you’ll find a range of insurance choices all in one place, lined up side-by-side, and explained in easy-to-understand language.