I’m a 34-year-old freelance opera singer and voice teacher from Rochester Hills, Michigan. As a result of my freelance job, I do not have the option of attaining health insurance through my employer. I was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 18, and Crohn’s Disease at age 21. Because of these pre-existing conditions, I have never been able to buy health insurance for myself in my adult life.
When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I almost lost my life that day. My small intestine perforated and I was in the ICU at Crittenton Hospital for two weeks, fighting for my life. Over the next decade, I’ve undergone three additional hospitalizations, and two more surgeries. The costs of these procedures totaled over hundreds of thousands of dollars, in addition to one medication I was prescribed that cost $12,000 every eight weeks.
I stayed on my parent’s health insurance for as long as possible through college, but after getting my graduate degree from one of the top music conservatories in the world, I had to quit music and take a full-time desk job to provide me with health insurance to cover my exorbitant healthcare needs. I was faced with the choice of bankruptcy or death – I could go to the doctor and never be able to pay the costs, or literally die from lack of care. Not one insurance company would accept me – they grilled me with invasively personal health questions and I received rejection after rejection. My dreams of becoming a working musician seemed dashed and hopeless, and I was miserable working as a office manager in a cubicle every day. The stress of not being able to pursue my dreams led to even further health issues, and more doctor visits and procedures as a result. I watched all of my young, healthy musician friends go off to travel and perform all over the world after grad school, while I silently suffered in the prison of the corporate world.
When Obama began crafting healthcare legislation, I was finally hopeful. I followed the news coverage obsessively, and called my congressmen on a regular basis. Finally, someone was fighting for people with pre-existing conditions – the very people that need healthcare the most – and that person was the President of the United States. When the ACA passed, I was ecstatic. I immediately hired an accountant, put together a business plan, and launched a plan to finally achieve my dreams. By 2014, I had secured enough music teaching work, and left that god-forsaken cubicle. I quit the corporate world, and have been buying my health insurance through the ACA exchange for the past 3-4 years, for an affordable cost, and making beautiful music for a living.
I distinctly remember that first phone call to a ACA Healthcare representative when I went to buy my own insurance for the first time. She didn’t grill me with any personal health questions, and simply took my basic information. When she said the words, “You can get insurance. You won’t be denied.” I began sobbing uncontrollably. After being rejected my entire life for something that I literally needed to survive, I was so overwhelmed with relief and gratefulness. When I look at the past four years of the healthcare I have received, I’m even more grateful because my health has improved tenfold. Just the stress and anxiety of not being able to care for myself or provide this basic human need makes dealing with chronic health issues even worse. By eliminating this issue, my health has never been more stable and consistent, and I’ve been free from surgeries and hospitalizations ever since.
When Trump was elected, that old hurricane of anxiety came back all at once, hitting me to the core. That black hole of anxiety that I had been freed from for the past four years was back. Watching the GOP’s repeated attempts at repealing the ACA had me saving my congressmen’s phone numbers on speed dial. Even now, their current tax plan is trying strip the ACA’s individual mandate, gutting the core piece of the legislation, and knocking 13 million Americans with pre-existing conditions off their insurance plans. I’m trying to remain hopeful, knowing that there are a handful of the GOP lawmakers have voted against such heartlessly cruel legislation in the past.
I have already signed up for my 2018 health insurance through the ACA, and enrollment is still open until December 15th. Sign up today! We must not let this crucial legislation fail in the age of Trump. Please support me and those with pre-existing conditions, and allow me to continue making our world more beautiful with music.
Katya Powder is a Rochester Hills native, and currently a New York City based opera singer and private voice teacher. She is a graduate from Oakland University and Manhattan School of Music. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with her two beautiful black cats.
To register for healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, visit www.healthcare.gov.