Jonathan Werbel: Before the ACA, I was completely uninsurable

The only thing I really care about is boats. I grew up on boats. My grandfather was in the fruit importing business. He had a boat called The Banana Queen that brought him so much luck in business, he named his second boat the Banana Queen 2. My mother went into labor with me while on the Queen 2, so the family story is that I was on a boat when I decided to be born.

Eventually, I ended up at New York Maritime Academy. When I got out, I really only had two choices. I was more Popeye than GI Joe, so I went into the merchant marines. Getting a job was easy. Getting health insurance was a different story.

When I was 12, I was diagnosed with osteoid osteoma—a type of bone cancer. When I first heard the news, I remember Dr. Marco telling me it had something serious to do with my leg and I needed emergency surgery. The surgery was a success. But it left me with a serious staph infection causing medical complications well into my 20s.

Having two pre-existing conditions made me an insurance pariah.

Before insurance companies were banned from some  of their worst practices, I was completely uninsurable. I would start a job, begin getting health insurance, and then the insurance would be rescinded.

For people who have the privilege of always being healthy, rescission is when an insurance company cancels your health insurance because you are too expensive to insure. This usually happens after you’ve been paying for the insurance a few months. There is no refund. Yes, that’s right, insurance companies would find any way they could to drop you.

Or worse. Once the company i worked for found out how expensive I was to insure and they left me high and dry and just replaced me with a cheaper-to-insure employee.

It wasn’t until we passed health care protections that I was finally able to get consistent guaranteed insurance.  The ACA made rescission illegal, except in the case of fraud. 

The thing is, not getting sick is mostly luck.

With health care, you have to frontload your luck; regular check-ups, constant attention, and listening to the doctor. It is the frontloading of my health that keeps my medical bills down and makes it cheaper for the insurance company overall.

News flash, even people with pre-existing conditions have ambition and own businesses. Just because someone was sick once, doesn’t mean you should be excluded from the safety that health insurance provides. Instead, small entrepreneurs like me have become a scapegoat for costs being too high and are demonized by Washington.

My business only pays a modest living, but I offer a needed dockside service. Independent businesses like mine are essential to the maritime industry that New Bedford functions around.

The Trump Administration claims to be pro-business, but what they really mean is only if you are rich enough. If you are self-employed, don’t have perfect health, or don’t make enough money to play golf in Florida, they aren’t on your side. Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation was another example of them gaming the system in their own interest.

Jonathan Werbel is the owner of Fairhaven Yachts, a boat building and repair shop in Massachusetts.