Posted by Anna Strong on March 24th 2014
For 26-year-old Nate Kennedy, health coverage under the Affordable Care Act arrived not a moment too soon. On January 2nd, the day after his new "silver" health plan kicked in, he developed a high fever and night sweats, and doctors soon realized he had malaria. It was a holdover from international student travel, but he had shown no symptoms before that. Fortunately, his new plan was in place, and he got the care he needed to heal.
Nate, a graduate student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, had more expensive coverage before January 1, and it had a higher deductible. He was pleased with his coverage options under the Affordable Care Act and signed up before the deadline on Christmas Eve. As one of the "invincible" generation who sometimes forgo insurance because they're relatively healthy, he hopes his example of an unexpected illness will encourage other young people to sign up before the enrollment period ends on March 31.
"I'm fortunate to have been paying attention to what's going on with health care reform, and now I'm taking responsibility for my health," Nate said. "My graduate school program can put me in riskier situations, and I'm glad to have insurance as I pursue my goals."
When Kennedy turned 26 in mid-2013, he purchased an individual insurance plan to cover him for about six months. He had been following the discussions about the Affordable Care Act and knew that he might have more comprehensive, more affordable options come January 1. Sure enough, he did.
With the help of a cousin who is an insurance broker, he researched his options. After estimating his yearly income from his part time job and a hopeful full-time job after graduation, Nate chose a silver plan for about $40 per month. This is less than half of the cost of his previous plan, and it included reductions in his copays and deductibles to make health care more affordable.
Thankfully, after returning to Arkansas after the holidays, Nate's insurance card was waiting for him in the mailbox. Then, on January 2, he suddenly became very ill. Thinking he had the flu, he went to an urgent care center. His flu test was negative, but his symptoms continued to worsen. On his second trip to urgent care, he mentioned he had been in Uganda for the summer. The physician became worried his illness could be a form of malaria that lies dormant and flares up months later. He sent Nate to the UAMS emergency department, where he indeed tested positive for malaria. A night in the emergency room was followed by two nights in the hospital, receiving large doses of medicine to curb the effects of the infection.
"It's the first time I've ever been in the ER or in the hospital," said Nate. "My old insurance expired on January 1, so thankfully my new Obamacare plan was there to pick up the slack for my treatment."
Nate's plan had a $150 deductible, and he did not have a copay at the urgent care center or at the hospital when he was admitted. He did have a small hiccup with the first monthly payment to the insurance company, which caused a delay with prescriptions being covered at the pharmacy. However, a few phone calls have resolved the issue.
Not one to let a case of malaria hold him back, a fully-insured Nate is heading back to Uganda next week to complete his final master's degree project with Hope North, a school for former child soldiers and orphans.
A native Missourian, he's hoping his master's degree will lead him toward a career in the nonprofit world, hopefully one focused on music.