Sara Kelly Jones would see a 63-percent decrease in financial assistance from the government for the same coverage under the new health plan.
Sara Kelly Jones has always understood the importance of having health insurance. During her adult life working in the music industry of Atlanta and Athens Georgia, her mother made sure that she always had coverage, which she had always paid for out-of-pocket.
“I have never been without work since I was 13 years old, I had always had enough money,” she says. “Until I needed to take care of my mother.”
Fourteen years ago, Jones left her career and moved to Charlotte to become a primary caregiver for her mother who needed constant care.
Per her mother’s wishes, she continued to pay for insurance despite her premiums increasing by $100 a year. By the time her premiums had reached more than $800 a month, Jones worried about going bankrupt. She had a mortgage, living expenses and was caring for her mother every day, while working as a waitress.
“It was beyond anything I could possibly afford,” she says. ” I’d have to make the call between my mom and an extra shift. It was horrifying.”
Jones learned about the free, in-person assistance Legal Services of Southern Piedmont’s health insurance navigator program provides after her mother read about it in the newspaper. In 2015, she met with a navigator and enrolled in a health plan with a monthly premium less than $30 a month.
“The amount of stress the ACA relieves me of—I can’t begin to tell you,” she says. “I didn’t know how I was going to do both.”
Having health insurance gave Jones peace of mind. She was covered in case of a health emergency, and she didn’t have to choose between making enough money to cover her expenses and caring for her mother.
She was also covered when she did have a sudden health emergency –having a grapefruit sized tumor removed from one of her ovaries.
“I didn’t worry that every single penny would go to that,” she says.
Jones’ mother passed away in August, and as she has spent the last few months settling her mother’s estate and grieving her loss, Jones made sure to re-enroll in health insurance for 2017.
In November, Jones enrolled in another plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace with the help of a LSSP navigator. Though her premium was higher than the previous year because she became a smoker, it’s far below what she was paying before enrolling through the ACA.
“It was literally a life-changer. It enabled me to feel a lot better about my situation.”
Jones, a self-proclaimed news junkie, has been following the headlines since the 2016 election and worries about her ability to afford health insurance amid the uncertainty surrounding the ACA’s future. She knows that without affordable coverage options, she would go back to paying more than $800 a month for insurance. She worries about being thrust back in that situation and if she could even get coverage if insurers’ policy of denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions was reinstated with the repeal of ACA. She realizes she’s not alone.
“I desperately need it,” she says. “I work two jobs six days a week. I have awesome bosses, but in the service industry; nobody gives you health insurance. You can never count on that. There are millions of us, and we’re all in the same boat.”
Jones shares her story of coverage because she believes all people should have access to affordable healthcare options. And in doing so, Jones knows she is honoring her mother, who believed everyone should have insurance too.