I've never been without health insurance. Never. Not for a single day.
As a child, this was not a thing I worried about and it was not a thing I had anything to do with. That was just luck. But as a college student, before Obamacare, graduation loomed like the end of a pirate's plank. I had no idea how I was going to get a real job, and no idea how I could have health insurance without one.
I was unwilling to consider going without health insurance. Not because I was seriously sick or ever had been, but because I loved people who had had sudden expensive health problems pop up out of nowhere and because I had parents who emphasized how insurance of all kinds smooths out the small risk of catastrophe with regular, theoretically affordable, payments and shared burden. You don't drive a car off the lot without auto insurance, you don't move into an apartment without renter's insurance, you don't go a day without health insurance.
And, like I said, I haven't.
I've had many moments of regret, though. What if I'd been a little younger and being insured separately from a job had been possible when I was starting out? What if I'd had a little more tolerance for risk and been willing to just go uninsured for a few years in my twenties? Because as it was, I narrowed down my career options from the very beginning to a rather thin slice, largely because of health insurance.
Knowing we wanted to have kids some day, and knowing that part time work usually doesn't come with health insurance, we limited our ideas of how we could be parents years ahead of time. Those limits rippled through a stream of life choices, large and small.
And, yeah, I know it's still a thing to be grateful for, having never gone a day without insurance. Millions of us in this country don't even have the option.
But this is why I was most excited when Obamacare passed. Certainly, it was good to know that fewer people would be choosing between bankruptcy and watching a loved one die of cancer without even knowing whether treatment might have saved them, or between food and taking their full dose of prescriptions. But I was excited to think of the possibilities opening up for the people a little younger than me, the possibilities that would hopefully be well expanded by the time my own kids were facing the adulthood cliff. Possibilities not just for individuals, but for our whole society as a result.
So, I could sit here and make the heart wrenching appeals and angry denunciations of cruelty that you'd probably expect and have already heard. I agree with them completely. But what usually gets left out is freedom. The freedom to search for a job without half your attention on health insurance. The freedom to quit a bad job without fearing a gap in coverage. The freedom to start a family without fearing bankruptcy. The freedom to share domestic responsibilities with your partner however you see fit, not however your employers and the insurance company see fit to allow you.
I've been voting my whole life for the opportunity to pay more taxes to see those freedoms spread from sea to shining sea.