A small business owner, a primary breadwinner, a working mother of four -- Karen M. is a lot of different things. But one person she did not want to be is a heart attack victim.
Her mother had a heart attack at 46 years of age. Karen herself had a persistent pain that had plagued her for years. But when she opened her own business in 2004, she found that she could not keep her coverage nor qualify for a new plan because of her pre-existing condition. So, for 10 years, she was forced to manage her chronic illness without health coverage. "I depended upon our local low cost clinic" in Burien, Washington, she said. "So I had the bare necessities covered, but there were no affordable options for follow up care."
But when the Health Insurance Marketplace opened in 2014, she found affordable coverage and all that came with it: "I could fill my prescriptions with a co-payment, I could see a doctor for $20.00 a visit. Another bonus to having real health care, I could be referred to a cardiologist."
So she got her check-up, her blood work, better medications, and a doctor that listened to her and understood her symptoms. And nearly five months after getting covered, Karen was admitted to the hospital for bypass surgery. "The surgeon said I was a prime candidate for a major heart attack, and because of the anomalies in my heart's structure, I may not have survived it. I am 110% better, back to work, and out of pain," she said. "Health care reform gave me that chance."