Sean Recchi, a small-business owner in Lancaster, Ohio, was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. The business he and his wife ran wasn’t making a lot money; the family was forced to borrow heavily; and officials at the cancer center where he sought treatment said his insurance was effectively worthless.
Despite these horrific circumstances, Sean’s wife, Stephanie Recchi, told Time’s Steven Brill last fall, “I don’t think Obamacare will help us. I don’t want anything to do with it.” She added, “I hear a lot of bad things about it – that it doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions and it’s too expensive.” Why did she believe this? Recchi said she’d seen “television ads and some politicians talking on the news.”
Here’s a family facing a terrible ordeal, through no fault of their own, and clearly in need a hand. But they’d been misled by charlatans and cranks, feeding on public confusion, and leaving the Recchi family with a mistaken impression of reality.
That was a few months ago. Brill published a follow-up report this week, noting that “what has happened to the Recchis and their health care options more recently might be emblematic of the law’s potential” (via Joan McCarter).
“When they came to my office, Stephanie told me right up front, ‘I don’t want any part of Obamacare,’ ” recalls health-insurance agent Barry Cohen. “These were clearly people who don’t like the President. So I kind of let that slide and just asked them for basic information and told them we would go on the Ohio exchange” – which is actually the Ohio section of the federal Obamacare exchange – “and show them what’s available.”
What Stephanie soon discovered, she told me in mid-November, “was a godsend.” The business that she and her husband had launched … had recently received investor interest after being featured on an episode of the television series CSI. So she estimated to Cohen that their income would be about $90,000 in 2014. But even at that level, her family of four would qualify for a subsidy under Obamacare.
The Recchi family zeroed in on a plan with a $793 monthly premium, which would ultimately cost $566 a month thanks to the ACA subsidy. That was based on $90,000 income – if the family made $40,000, as it had last year, the premium would have cost them $17 a month.
All of a sudden, Stephanie Recchi, who’d previously seen “television ads and some politicians talking on the news,” saw the benefits of health care reform up close. “This is wonderful,” she said.
This is, in political terms, is exactly the kind of nightmare Republicans have feared.
In fact, the story gets better for the Recchi family (and worse for the GOP). Because rates were based on the Recchis reported 2013 income, not their projected income, they actually qualified for coverage under Medicaid expansion.
Their health care, in other words, is free.
Because of “Obamacare” – the law Stephanie Recchi assumed she wanted no part of – this family doesn’t have to worry about being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Sean Recchi’s cancer is in remission, but he knows he can cover the costs of his medication.
To be sure, it wasn’t easy. They struggled with healthcare.gov, just as many consumers did, when the website’s dysfunction became a national scandal. They needed help from an insurance agent to navigate their choices. If this family lived in one of the many Republican-dominated states that refuses to expand Medicaid, their coverage wouldn’t be free at all.
It’s stories like these that conservative activists and policymakers sought to avoid. Every time folks like the Recchi family benefit enormously from the Affordable Care Act, it means more Americans having the kind of health care security they deserve.
As a consequence, it makes the law that much more popular – and its demise that much less likely. Indeed, stories like this one out of Ohio are becoming increasingly common all over the country, even among those who had been conditioned to oppose they law they thought they didn’t like.
It’s largely why Republicans fought so hysterically to kill “Obamacare” before benefits began reaching millions of families: they hoped to destroy the law before Americans started to like it.
As Jonathan Cohn explained a while back, “With every day, more and more people are discovering that Obamacare is a source of security – and a way to get the heath care they have always needed. This is the reality Republicans have always feared. Confronted with the reality of Obamacare, rather than the right’s distorted version of it, people will cherish it.”