How Health Insurance Saved a Life

The nation’s long running political drama over health care is likely still occupying your news feed in 2016 and will do so well into 2017.

Despite big court challenges and efforts to repeal it, the 2010 health care law has succeeded in covering millions of people who have selected a plan through the federal exchange.



An October 2016 announcement from the White House detailed how before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 22 percent. This is for the 39 states served by the federally run online market.  Also, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from after major national insurance carriers scaled back their roles on the market.

However, this price increase won’t affect the majority of the people who purchase their health insurance through the marketplace.  That’s because the amount of financial help someone qualifies for depends not only on their income, but also on the cost of the plans available in their service area. Tax credits rise along with rates to make sure coverage remains affordable for families who need it. In fact, a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) shows that 72 percent of marketplace consumers in states using will be able to find plans with a premium of less than $75 per month, and 77 percent will be able to find plans with premiums below $100, taking into account financial assistance.


Forty-one-year-old Trevon Buchanan knows what real sticker shock looks like; $ 5,000 a month to keep him alive kind of sticker shock. That’s how much his medication would cost if he didn’t have insurance.  His insurance, along with his premium assistance, helps keep his monthly prescription cost to a manageable $100.  He takes about 13 different medications to help his body not reject a kidney.  Ten years ago, he was hospitalized and in end stage renal disease, but a kidney transplant saved his life.

“To be honest, I would be dead without health insurance or I would be back on dialysis, which for me is like bleeding to death without dying.” Buchanan spoke candidly.

Buchanan is a self-employed youth minister at Westside Church of Christ in Texarkana, a city named after the states it is situated in: Texas and Arkansas.

His journey to get a health plan that would work for his family is a complicated one, and his story has its fair share of potential road-blocks and frustration. Like when he thought he successfully enrolled in the marketplace two years ago but later was kicked off.  Unaware, Buchanan was still on Medicare Part C, making him ineligible for his chosen marketplace plan.  But his particular Medicare Part C Plan didn’t cover medications or doctor visits, which are a necessity for a transplant recipient.  He needed something affordable, and he also wanted his wife to be covered.


In search of a solution, Buchanan went to CHRISTUS St. Michael and had a face-to-face meeting with Chris Turner. Chris is a Certified Application Counselor.  He works for the CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System during open enrollment to help walk applicants through the enrollment process.  The in-person assistance helped Buchanan.

“We went through this whole long process. Chris walked me through and found something affordable, and with premium assistance my wife is also covered,” explained Buchanan.

Buchanan is planning on taking similar steps when the enrollment window opens back up and says he’s looking for the same or similar coverage he got the last go around.

According to Enroll America, a non-partisan coalition dedicated to helping people get health insurance, in-person support is what people want with more than 7 in 10 wanting an in-person meeting when trying to navigate the process of getting coverage.



Open enrollment for 2017 health plans, starts Tues., Nov. 1, 2016. That’s the first day you can enroll, re-enroll or change a 2017 insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan is January 31.

To receive help enrolling, CHRISTUS Health has created a website: Assistance with the Health Insurance Marketplace  There is also a toll free number 1.888.613.1004.

If you went without health insurance in 2016, the penalty is 2.5 percent of your income or $695 per adult (whichever is more) and the penalty of each child in the family without coverage is $348.50. The maximum penalty is set at $2,085.  The penalty will remain at 2.5 percent for the 2017 tax year.

The department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it expects 13.8 million consumers to select a plan on the exchanges, up from 12.7 million who did so during the last enrollment period.

Of the 13.8 million estimated signups, HHS predicts that about 9.2 million will be returning exchange customers.

Buchanan is one of those more than 9 million.

To his wife and four children though, he’s not just a returning exchange customer he’s their life and because their loved one’s life is covered…..

“I do everything now with great appreciation of what I get to do,” he said.