William McKenzie is one of McCarthy's constituents who says he loves the law. The 31-year-old unemployed oil refinery worker hadn't had insurance coverage for at least a decade when he was diagnosed as HIV positive in December. A few weeks later, on Jan. 1, Medicaid became available to him under the Obamacare expansion. "Without this plan, I would probably be in the ground," McKenzie said after a recent appointment at a community health center in Bakersfield. Medicaid pays for his $113 tests to measure his viral levels and the $1,200 monthly cost of antiretroviral medications. "It's real. It doesn't get more real than that," he said. "Without these meds, I don't know how my health would be."
Kathy Bentzoni, a 58-year-old Pennsylvanian, is also thankful for Obamacare. Just after she got coverage, doctors discovered that she had a rare blood disorder. Without the law, she said, she would be "probably dead." Joshua Haymore, a 27-year-old Coloradan, could not get a specialist to see him for weeks last year while he was uninsured, and his ulcerative colitis worsened to the point that he nearly died, his mother told me. His family ended up paying up to $800 a month for drugs to keep the condition in check. Now that he has Medicaid, his prescriptions cost $3 and his health has improved significantly. Those are just three of thousands of good-news stories coming from the insurance expansion in the Affordable Care Act. Across the country, the law is improving access to doctors, prompting low- and middle-income Americans to use more medical care, protecting families from financial distress and ultimately saving lives -- as many as 24,000 a year, back-of-the-envelope math suggests.