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Alex spent New Year’s Eve of 2009 in a doctor’s office. He knew that the very next day, when the calendar turned over to 2010, he would lose the health coverage he had through his mother's insurance. He was desperate to receive a steroid shot to manage reoccurring joint pain while he still had coverage. “The inflammation in my finger had gotten so bad I couldn’t move it and it swelled up to twice its size,” Alex recalls. “It would wake me up in the middle of the night.”

Alex was experiencing his first flare-up of psoriatic arthritis, a painful illness that would go undiagnosed for several more years. Between school, part-time work, and his mom’s plan, he only had intermittent insurance coverage. This allowed for brief visits with many different doctors, but not the consistent, specialized care he needed to figure out his illness.

Alex dreamed of being a teacher, but leaving his part-time job at Starbucks meant losing health coverage. “It became a catch-22 because it was really hard to make the 20 hours a week at Starbucks to qualify for insurance. It was harder and harder to do 8 hour shifts. I would finish unable to walk.”

In those years, it was hard for Alex’s friends to understand what he was going through. “Some people think it’s a choice to not have insurance. For me, I was desperate to get insurance.”

Eventually, Alex saw a rheumatologist who diagnosed his condition and prescribed medication. It was a relief to identify the problem at last. However, when he left Starbucks to pursue a career in education, his application to Health Partners was denied because of his pre-existing condition.

Fortunately, it was only a few months wait until the Affordable Care Act went into practice. Alex and his wife enrolled immediately in a plan that only costs $80 a month.

“It is the best insurance I’ve ever had,” Alex says. “For the first time in my adult life, I have a normal doctor. Before, I thought about my arthritis every single day. I was in constant fear – am I not going to be able to work tomorrow? Where will I get money?  Now I address flare-ups before they become really big problems.”

Alex and his wife are thrilled about what the ACA means for them, and for people all over the United States. As Alex puts it, “It feels like we finally lived up to the way America thinks of itself. There are countries all over the world where everyone has insurance. Private systems or public ones, but every citizen has insurance. And we didn’t. Changing that reflects American values. This is working; we just need to choose to do it.” 

Tags: minnesota, mnsure

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