Chris Petersen: The ACA meant I could purchase quality, affordable health care that did not exclude pre-existing conditions

I’ve been an independent family farmer for most of my life, raising crops, livestock and local foods in rural Iowa. I’m gravely concerned with Congress’ latest health care game-playing. We farmers are looking at, once again, being priced out of health insurance.

Nearly two decades back I had health coverage through an outside job and was diagnosed with a nickel-sized hernia.  It was a minor inconvenience and I did not have surgery.  As time went by, farming was looking up and I was able to quit the job, farm full time and afford private insurance. We were approved for a policy, even with my hernia and my wife’s lifelong heart murmur—which we disclosed during the application process. Each month we religiously paid the $700 premium.

After about a year, I decided I needed to take care of the hernia and was pre-approved for the surgery.  After the surgery, the bills started coming. After months of talking to our agent and mountains of correspondence the insurance company denied the claim, citing a pre-existing condition and dropped me, but kept my wife on.

Then my wife had pre-approved heart tests for the second time. The insurance company denied the claim she was dropped from the policy. The company’s stated reason: discrepancies between medical records and insurance forms. Paperwork filled out nearly two years earlier by their agent listing my wife, Kristi, as one inch taller and a dozen pounds lighter than on the day of her tests.

So, for 14 years, we made $200 monthly installments for medical care that we had already paid thousands in premium costs to cover. Since we were marked as uninsurable, we had to purchase coverage through a safety net program that cost $1,300 a month, with a $2,500 deductible.  I also became diabetic during this time, but was forced to skip three out of four annual diabetes and blood pressure checks because it cost too much.

Then came the ACA.  Kristi and I were able to purchase quality, affordable health care that did not exclude our pre-existing conditions through the ACA marketplace.  But now, with Republicans’ underhanded sabotage of the ACA we are getting eaten at both ends.  And Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court may be the final nail in the coffin for the ACA. 

Kristi and I will likely be forced to drop all insurance next month. Premiums have increased so much from sabotage efforts at both the federal and state levels that we can no longer afford our plan, which now costs $42,500 per year. As farmers, our income is sporadic. We are in our early 60s and we are just hoping to make it to 65 and Medicare. Hopefully Republicans don’t decimate Medicare before then.

Chris Petersen is an independent family farmer raising crops, livestock, and local foods near Clear Lake, IA.