I remember the exact moment when I first started loving Hillary. It was because she cared about my teeth. It was during Bill Clinton’s first term, and I was reading about the ongoing political fight over Hillarycare. The newspaper story said insurance company bigwigs were angry with Hillary because she had insisted that dental coverage be included.
I don’t have the exact quote, but it was words to the effect of: “Your teeth are part of your body, aren’t they? You can’t separate them.” She pointed out that children with bad teeth couldn’t eat healthy food, or concentrate on their schoolwork.
And I thought, Wow. I love her.
When you’re a member of the working poor, teeth are a big problem. Chances are, you need at least some work you can’t afford; you probably live with some pain when you eat. (In Pennsylvania, where I live, if you’re eligible for Medicaid, you can get dental work. But if you’re a member of the working poor, well, good luck.)
I was in my twenties before I even knew you could get a shot of Novocaine before a filling; the free city health center only used it when they yanked a tooth. And braces? In a family of five kids, that was just a dream.
Even though Hillarycare didn’t succeed, it deeply impressed me that someone in the White House actually cared about people like me. And Hillary started the national discussion that finally came to fruition after the 2008 presidential election.
Obama was elected, and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) passed by a hair. At first I thought it could have been a better plan, that it was cobbled together by competing interests. But I also knew it was just the beginning, because you can’t improve something that doesn’t exist.
Then, along with millions of others, I lost a good job during the Great Recession. I managed to pay my very expensive COBRA coverage until that option finally ran out. And that’s when I started to get frequent bouts of acute pancreatitis from gallstones.
Each time I showed up in the ER, the doctors told me I needed immediate gallbladder surgery or I might die; every time I told them I had no insurance, it was no longer an emergency and they sent me home.
It was still two years until Obamacare kicked in, and I resigned myself — me, this smart, talented, witty person who still intended to write the Great American Novel — to being just another anonymous statistic who died from lack of medical care. God, that was depressing.
Then a friend (a policy wonk) told me there was interim coverage for pre-existing conditions included in Obamacare for each state. And yes, Pennsylvania had it! I found it and signed up. I even got them to move up the effective date so I could have the surgery sooner.
Yes, that cobbled-together Obamacare coverage saved my life. And I love Hillary because before it was Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare. And Hillary is the one candidate who can – and will – maintain and expand Obamacare.
Hillary wants to increase premium subsidies, cap how much of your income you have to pay for premiums, and allow families to use the exchange if their employer’s plan is too expensive. She’s trying to figure out what incentives will get Republican governors to agree to the Medicaid expansion, because that would get us to the point of universal coverage.
She still supports a public option, and wants to work with interested governors, using the flexibility built into the Affordable Care Act to allow states to establish that choice. She intends to cut out-of-pocket costs, and reduce prescription drug charges.
Because of that dental coverage she first proposed so long ago, I know she’ll look out for us. If she says she’s going to fix something, I trust her to keep pushing. Because she cared about my teeth when no one else did.
And by the way? Through the federal insurance exchange, I finally got that dental coverage. Which only makes sense, because your teeth are connected to your body.