Retiring early is something many working Americans dream of. But for Emilia Bondsingram, the decision to retire before 65 came with a new set of problems.
"I just did not have money to afford health care," said Bonsingram. "I'm not quite old enough yet for Medicare so I was in that gap that comes sometime between being 60 and being 65. If you can't afford your own healthcare coverage, you end up without."
For three years, the 63-year-old went without annual screenings that could have caught cancer, diabetes, heart disease and a whole host of other ailments that affect people as they age.
"It's kind of scary, especially when we do get older when you can't even do basic maintenance or routine for your own health," she explained.
But in December that all changed when she decided to give herself an early Christmas present - the gift of health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
"To have it now, it is immeasurably comforting to know that if I needed to go to the hospital, I could go," said Bondsingram. "You can pay for a lot of things, but you cannot get health once it's gone."
Bondsingram isn't alone in her experience. For the group of seniors who fall in between the gap of poor and middle class, or retired and Medicare eligible, they remain uninsured. The Samuel Rogers Health Center is working to change that.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Dr. Sudeep Ross, the chief health officer at the Samuel Rogers Health Center in northeast Kansas City.
Ross said ever since ACA, which is also known as Obamacare, was enacted, he's seen preventive care visits nearly double, from 5,700 in 2013 to 10,000 in 2015.
"When you don't have insurance, you don't know what you don't know," said the general practitioner. "So folks without insurance are thinking, 'I feel great, so when I start feeling sick, I'll start worrying about insurance.' Actually no, you need to start before. That's why I remain hopeful that the Affordable Care Act is drawing people in to have health insurance so we can do those checkup and diagnose early and get people healthier."
One of the mistakes Ross said both proponents and opponents of ACA make is that they ask "is it working." He said, at this point, it's too early to tell and that we need several more years of enrollment before we can make any truthful conclusions.
Before we can draw conclusion, the physician said the following needs to happen:
- More Americans need to sign up for health insurance.
- More people need to see physicians and learn how to navigate the insurance process.
- Once they are seeing physicians, experts can analyze if America is getting healthier.
- Then and only then can we know if ACA is saving the health care system and America money.
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