December 23rd 2013 is the day my life as I currently knew it changed. I decided that the letter I had written about my experience with healthcare.gov and the new Affordable Care Act needed to be posted to what I thought was my little world of Facebook Friends. I addressed it as An Open Letter to the Obama Administration and American Citizens. My hopes were for my family and friends to read my letter and understand what we were going through. I wanted them to know if they were going through it too - they were not alone. I knew it would be shared and I asked it to be shared. However I never could have dreamed it would travel in social media as far as it has to date.
First, I want to make sure there is no confusion - I am Karri Kinder who lives in Alabama. I did write that letter and I am also writing this letter. Every word of my letter is true. This is happening to countless Americans. I am now more convinced of that than I was when I wrote my letter. I have had so many people contact me with their own “Obama Care Horror Story” as some articles have named it. There were a number of other Americans just like us with such similar stories; it began to be quite eerie. I knew what I had done would spark conversation among the American people. I was speaking out and helping others to do the same. I was letting my children’s’ voices be heard, I was letting our story be told. But, as I realized I was also opening my family up to the court of public opinion too.
Once you put something on the internet it is always there, and while I never meant to do any harm, my words sparked anger in many of my fellow Americans. I could not understand it. All I was trying to do was to get the word out there about what was happening to us and what was happening to my children. They are the only ones who have mattered through all this. They were the reason I wrote my letter – I needed to be their advocate. I, as their mother, had to tell their story. And I am very glad I live in a country where a single individual’s voice matters.
Again, everything in my previous letter was completely the truth. We were covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama for $380.00 a month, including dental coverage. I wouldn’t even begin to know how to make up that number. That is what our plan cost and that is what I paid for the last 12 months. Everyone’s premiums are different; they fluctuate from state to state as well. However, I saw my fellow Americans coming to my defense when my numbers came in question on several sites – for that I am very grateful. They also were telling their stories and sharing their premiums and confirming my numbers were not a lie. Their numbers were similar to ours. Many will say that our plan was so cheap because it was one of the sub par plans we have heard all the politicians talk about on the television. But to us it wasn’t. It met our needs and wants in a health insurance plan. My child’s medical needs (he has ADHD) were being met. All of his care this past year had been covered at 100 percent. When we went to the doctor for his ADHD care, we never paid a co-pay. When we saw his therapist for his behavioral therapy we never paid a co-pay or received a bill for that either. His medicine that he takes (generic form) cost us $100 for the first prescription, for us to meet his deductible and then a $15 dollar co-pay the rest of the year each time we filled a prescription. So, again for us our BCBS plan was meeting our needs.
I kept my letter politics free. My letter wasn’t about the political side of the Affordable Care Act. It was about what was happening to us and how it was hurting my family. After all the stories people have sent me, it is clear there are many “glitches” in this system. I for one am so happy that people, who were being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, now are able to get insured. I have always supported that aspect of the ACA. It is not right that someone who wants health insurance and is willing to pay the premiums for their health insurance, were not allowed by the insurance companies to do so. However that is where my support stopped. I don’t feel it is right to force other people, into a system they don’t want or truly need to be a part of. What happened to “if you like your current plan, you can keep it?” We certainly liked our plan but we are no longer allowed to keep it, it doesn’t meet all the requirements of the ACA and that is why it was terminated.
So here we are on January 4, 2014 and I do have some good news. Because I decided to write my letter and speak out - people stepped up and helped us. We were contacted on January 1, 2014 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I was told by the woman I spoke with that she had read my letter and wanted to get her team involved and see what they could do to help us. I recounted to her what was happening and that I had been advised to go ahead and sign me and my husband up for a plan on healthcare.gov. We went with a lower cost plan because it was going to just be the two of us. We had no idea what it was going to cost for the children once we got some answers. So we went with BCBS Blue Value Saver plan. The cost of the plan is $459.19. We qualified for $255.00 in subsidies so the final cost of the plan to us is $204.19 each month. I told the lady that I would cancel that plan if I needed to. What we wanted was to have all of us on one plan like we always have been. She said, “If the kids qualify for ALL Kids then I am pretty sure they have to go that route or you will have to buy them a plan at the normal rate.” So again we were told more than likely we will have to go through ALL Kids. She took the rest of our information down and said she was getting her team to work on it and would either call us back or ALL Kids would contact us.
January 2, 2014, a gentleman from ALL Kids contacted me as the Health and Services rep had stated. He had more questions for me and he said wanted to make sure we needed to go the ALL Kids route, since the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services rep told him that we didn’t want to put our kids on ALL Kids unless we had no other option. He went over the program with me and said they would be working on my application. He also told me it was a very good thing that I had went ahead and filled out an application with them personally because they had still not received our application through healthcare.gov. I couldn’t believe that information had not been sent yet. Remember I had received our first results on December 6, 2013. I was even more confident at that point that my letter had made all the difference for my children. I can’t imagine how long we would have waited to be contacted by the state, because our application was somewhere in limbo land through the healthcare.gov site. I was also very grateful to the one person with healthcare.gov who actually told me I needed to go ahead and file a separate application with ALL Kids.
January 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm I returned a missed phone call from ALL Kids – I had been at work and unable to answer the original call. They told me that our children have now been approved and they went over the cost with me. The cost to us for both boys will be $208.00 annually. So that means it will be a little over $17.00 a month for coverage through ALL Kids for both boys. I was told we should be receiving our packet information and cards in the mail within the next 5-7 business days. I thought when all this started that when we finally got our boys coverage through something I would have a huge sense of relief and weight off my shoulders. Please, do believe, I am incredibly grateful that they have coverage now and I am indebted to those who made this possible. However, I truly hate the fact that it is not how we wanted them to be covered. We don’t want to have to be reliant on the government, which is what makes my heart so heavy today. I think to myself, just a month ago, we were paying for our whole family to have private insurance and now today that is not the case. There are so many people out there who needed these services due to falling on hard times and other circumstances. I think it is a great program for those who need it, to get back on their feet. However a month ago we were not the people the program was designed for and today we are - to afford coverage and still have some money to spend and support the U.S. Economy by affording to buy clothes, food , clothes, gas, and other necessities. Again, I am forever indebted to those who got the ball rolling for them to have coverage – those who called me and made sure my children would get coverage quickly. We just didn’t want to have to be reliant on the government when we didn’t have to before the ACA was passed and enacted. Seems we should have a healthcare system that maintains affordability on all levels without needing the government’s funds to afford a modest lifestyle as middle class Americans.
Lastly, I want to thank my family and friends for all the support you have shown us. To all, my fellow Americans, who did not know us and shared our story. To our Alabama State Senator Tom Whatley (R -27th District) who took the time to call us and offered his help and support. All of you had a part in helping get us answers and a solution to our situation. So many sent us their thoughts and prayers and we are so thankful to each and every one of you. I encourage everyone who has shared their stories with us to please write your own letter so others can see that we are not the only family this is happening to. There are so many stories in my email inbox of families, just like us, getting lost in the ACA system and that were paying for their own healthcare plans that were affordable for their families until now. If we all speak up then our government will have to listen and work on fixing the problems as a whole. I will support all of you who decide to speak out. It is not an easy road as I have learned, but it did get us the help we needed to start the new year fully covered. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you going through this and I will offer my support any way I can.