William Garcia lives with his family in La Crosse, Wis. He is a college instructor and the chair of the La Crosse County Democratic Party.
On Christmas Day last year, my daughter Merlin suddenly began experiencing a massive headache. For a typical 24-year-old, this might simply be a symptom of exhaustion or overindulgence in spiked eggnog the night before. We hoped it was a migraine or stress headache, but given our daughter’s medical history, we knew there was a possibility that it was something more serious. We took Merlin to the emergency room to be safe.
At the hospital, the ER doctor ordered an MRI, which found something shocking: a golf-ball-sized tumor in our daughter’s brain. Doctors rushed Merlin into emergency surgery, where a team of surgeons removed the tumor. After an agonizing wait, we finally received good news: The surgery had entirely removed the tumor, which was thankfully benign and likely caused by a previous brain surgery. After a month of rest and recovery, Merlin was back to her usual, happy, productive self.
Because of the Affordable Care Act provision guaranteeing that children can remain on their parents’ insurance until 26 years of age, Merlin was covered then and is still covered by our insurance, ensuring that she could access her emergency surgery last Christmas. The ACA saved my daughter’s life — and not for the first time.
The health scare last Christmas was particularly nerve-wracking because it was not the first time Merlin had been diagnosed with a life-threatening medical issue after experiencing potentially innocuous symptoms. When she was just 11 years old, after months of occasional numbness in her right arm, Merlin was diagnosed with an upper arterial venous malformation — a tangle of blood vessels that prevents veins and arteries from connecting properly — in the upper left quadrant of her brain.
An AVM can cause a fatal brain hemorrhage if left untreated. With each passing year, the chance of a rupture in the brain increases by 2%. So when doctors told us about an advanced surgical procedure that could significantly reduce the risk of complications from Merlin’s AVM, we jumped at the chance. And because of the Affordable Care Act, which had passed a few years prior, my wife’s insurance company couldn’t deny coverage due to Merlin’s preexisting condition. Merlin received the surgery, and while she continues to need daily anti-seizure medications, she has not experienced any hemorrhages.
While I’ll be the first to admit that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect and leaves many issues with our health care system to be resolved, I am incredibly grateful for its impact on my family. Because of the ACA, Merlin has received insurance coverage for several intensive and possibly life-saving surgeries, ensuring that my wife and I didn’t have to go bankrupt to pay for her treatments. And because of the ACA, our daughter remains covered by our health insurance to this day.
President Joe Biden has continued to build on the ACA’s legacy since taking office in 2021. From the American Rescue Plan Act to the Inflation Reduction Act, his administration has increased and extended subsidies that continue to lower monthly premiums for millions of Americans. The impact is clear: This year, a record 16.4 million Americans signed up for the ACA Marketplace. That figure doesn’t include the millions of families like my own who receive health insurance outside of the ACA Marketplace but still benefit from the law’s protections.
If Merlin had experienced her life-threatening health issues before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could have denied her coverage, possibly preventing us from accessing critical treatments or bankrupting us if we paid for them out of pocket. I cannot express how grateful my wife and I are that we didn’t have to worry about these worst-case scenarios. A majority of Americans approve of the impact that the ACA has had on our country. We must keep building on the law’s success by making health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. We must keep pushing our elected leaders to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act — for the sake of my daughter and millions of Americans like her.