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Doctors with patient, 1999 Item 100429, Fleets and Facilities Department Imagebank Collection (Record Series 0207-01), Seattle Municipal Archives.
Tamara Williams is 40, a mother of three from North Little Rock, Arkansas. She had her first mammogram in February, where something wrong was spotted. After a follow-up biopsy, doctors diagnosed invasive ductal carcinoma—cancer. Her surgery was in March, and she'll soon begin chemotherapy.  

Hers is not such a remarkable story, except that Williams only had that mammogram because she'd just gained insurance after 10 years when Arkansas expanded Medicaid with its private option under Obamacare. She has always worked, but never at a job that provided health insurance or paid enough that she could afford it on her own—she has hypertension, one of those pre-existing conditions that insurance companies would use to hike premiums out of reach of far too many working people.

Williams's story is just one of several the Arkansas Times tells, part of a series the paper is presenting to show the "faces of health care expansion."

Williams is not out of the woods with the cancer but she is feeling upbeat.

"You kind of feel like you're getting the VIP treatment because it was like boom, boom, boom, let's get it out," she said. "I was like, wow, insurance really does mean something. You have good days and bad days, but I'm optimistic. It's mind over matter. If you hope for the best, you have better outcomes."

While Williams' reaction is understandable, it's heartbreaking. Americans should not feel like VIPs simply because they are getting the health care they need when they need it. But that's the result of our broken system, one that is getting a little less broken under Obamacare.

For more stories from Arkansas, head below the fold.

Fetara Amos, 22, had a similar reaction to Williams when she found out she was going to be able to qualify for coverage. "I actually cried in front of this man," she said. "It felt amazing. I felt like my prayers had been answered." She too has a chronic, serious condition and has been uninsured for four years. The scar tissue and tumors on her thyroid had sometimes become so painful that she could barely walk, and has only been able to work part time as a nursing assistant. Her husband makes minimum wage work in fast food, but hopes to go to school to learn a trade. They made too much to qualify for Medicaid before reform, but now have it.

"It felt like a ton of weight was lifted off of my chest," Amos said. "I felt relieved. We could finally get coverage and be able to take care of ourselves."

Amos is having her surgery this week to get the tumors removed. She is hopeful the surgery will allow her to safely have another child. "I pray to God it does," she said. "I've been blessed this far, and He'll keep on blessing me."

Fifty-six-year-old Irene Warren has been insured for more than a decade, and is unemployed, largely because of her health. "I got congestive heart failure. […] I got liver disease. I got kidney disease. Arthritis. Gout. I got it all." On top of that, she had a stroke in 2012.
"I did what I could do," she said. She pointed to a stack of papers a foot high. "That's medical bills. I still owe a lot. Then you're just shamed to go back to the doctor because they're going to tell you that you still owe. It hurt, you know? It was a hurting feeling."
She learned about the new health law in church one Sunday, applied and now has a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan under the private option, and was able to go to the doctor without feeling shame. "It changed my whole way of thinking. […] It uplifted my life. If something happened to me now and I go to feeling bad, I can go to the doctor."

There is story after story presented here, people with serious chronic illnesses from Type I diabetes to Crohn's disease to heart ailments, many of whom have been able to hang on to jobs because of their health, some who are still facing crippling health bills, and a few who've had to file bankruptcy. Every one of them has had to compromise their health because the simply couldn't afford to go to the doctor, making their situation even more dire.

Meanwhile, Republican governors and legislators around the country, in those states that still refuse to expand, say that it's too expensive to save the lives and the families of these people. They rail against the federal government putting itself in doctors' offices. They insist they're being fiscally responsible, despite the financial and moral costs to their states of having a collective 5 million people unable to pay for critical care.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu May 08, 2014 at 10:54 AM PDT.

Also republished by Obamacare Saves Lives and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (38+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Thu May 08, 2014 at 10:54:42 AM PDT

  •  It's stories like these that gives one hope that (8+ / 0-)

    this country not only can but will do the right thing over time. It may take longer than we like, but it is inevitable. The past and the future is on our side.....

    Them's fightin' words!!!

    by Leo Sagittarius on Thu May 08, 2014 at 12:07:15 PM PDT

    •  mony.mony (0+ / 1-)
      Recommended by:
      Hidden by:

      Hi ! I am Jenna, and i will be your personal coach and will guide you in starting with an online business and earning online... So if you are interested in making $90 hourly and up to $12000 a month then follow link at the bottom and sign up and you can have your first check by the end of this week...­­WORK71.C­­O­­M

  •   Makes me want to cry and smile at the same time. (8+ / 0-)

    So sad that with health care her cancer probably would have been found earlier giving her a better prognosis. So good that after all the bullshit thrown at Obama and his team on passing the ACA we are seeing real people's lives improve in material ways.

    I think the main strategy for the administration and Democratic candidates is to just keep highlighting case after case of people who get to live a better and longer life.

  •  In a real Democracy, the citizens are VIPs. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Jollie Ollie Orange, TerryDarc, singe, hbk

    In Georgia, acting the fool with a gun is not only legal, it is encouraged by the governor and the state legislature.

    by Mayfly on Thu May 08, 2014 at 03:39:17 PM PDT

  •  And Republicans find no value in these lives. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TerryDarc, singe, cjfb, splashy

    No sanctity of life.
    They may think life begins at conception, but change their minds completely the minute someone needs health care.

    How have they not been called on the fact that health care means life?

    Confession time: When I'm not ranting about politics, I write romance novels

    by teresahill on Thu May 08, 2014 at 03:40:36 PM PDT

    •  Yeah, but Republicans are all over family values (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And Christianity and all that stuff. Doubtless their mouthpiece Fox News will be featuring these AK stories on the evening news. In my dreams.

      What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. Henry VI Part II Act 3 Scene 2

      by TerryDarc on Thu May 08, 2014 at 04:19:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wait, wait, wait, you libruls! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    See all these poor people, getting health care and stuff? I suppose you want us to feel good that some woman got treatment for breast cancer. But what if she got cancer on purpose just to suck up some of that sweet, sweet health care? Huh? Didn't think of that, did you libruls?

    And now that other woman is going to go to her doctor without being quite so shamed about her medical bills. America was built on shame! Well, not mine of course, that's why I work at Fox News, Shameless Division. We shame other people so they'll get with the program, straighten up and fly right. Then, when they succeed, we can take all the credit, because we shamed them into it. See how that works?

    But now? Lives being saved, people getting treatment? Why, that's unamerican! You libruls should be ashamed!

  •  I hope (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    singe, smrichmond

    The good folks in far too many places can cut out the larger tumor afflicting the body politic on November 4: republicans...  

    "the northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see. Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee". - Robert Service, Bard of the Yukon

    by Joe Jackson on Thu May 08, 2014 at 04:23:38 PM PDT

    •  Not a chance. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joe Jackson

      That particular cancer on the body politic long ago metastasized and is now too pervasive to be excised.

      The only way to rid ourselves of it is by the long, slow process of political chemotherapy.  We have to go after each and every malignant cell, i.e., every elected Republican across the nation.  

      Okay, I think I've stretched this metaphor about as far as it'll go.

      "Ça c'est une chanson que j'aurais vraiment aimé ne pas avoir écrite." -- Barbara

      by FogCityJohn on Thu May 08, 2014 at 04:33:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Natural immunity has been asserting itself (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in a long, slow process, where a few million of their children and grandchildren fall away each year. Unfortunately the remaining tumor becomes less invasive but more malignant otherwise as it shrinks.

        Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

        by Mokurai on Thu May 08, 2014 at 06:47:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for Diary! Can you tell us about the (0+ / 0-)

    Arkansas Times? Is it widely read? Does it lean left or is it neutral?
    I thought if you were there you might know more nuances than the internets.

    •  alternative paper with a Welcome to Pres O (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      on webpage.

      Want good news to reach a wide audience.

    •  Leans left, and really covers Arkansas well (0+ / 0-)

      Worth reading.

      Women create the entire labor force.
      Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

      by splashy on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:29:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  just wish more average Arkansan read it (0+ / 0-)

        They're the ones who need to see this news the most. Then again they are seeing this news if they know any middle class or poor people, anyway.

        It's great they are covering this. I like the writing (I checked out their website).

        On one side, a few people have money issues because of the ACA and are angry. That may really negatively effect some people true. But on the other side, much suffering is remedied and lives are truly being saved.

        I said that to my cousin who can't afford a bronze plan-he only has one company he has to go with no competition who was complaining about the ACA on the whole. I said "at least some people won't die now". He's left without insurance and mad about it. But, he'd be without insurance without the ACA also.

        •  If he can't afford it (0+ / 0-)

          He should be able to get help.

          Women create the entire labor force.
          Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

          by splashy on Fri May 09, 2014 at 10:21:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  nope according to 2 navigators (0+ / 0-)

            he makes a tiny bit over the cutoff for extended Medicaid.

            I am entirely pro ACA. It's not single payer but it's a foot in the door toward that, I hope.

            But there are in fact people who have fallen between the cracks. If you live in an expensive area especially I think the  subsidies may not be enough for people who make just over the cutoff for extended Medicaid. IT really isn't that high. Rent in his area for a 1 BR apartment is about $1100 a month. I also wonder if single people are at a disadvantage because the "poverty limit" numbers don't entirely correct for the fact that it is more expensive per family member to be single (rent for 2 BR for a family of 3 would only be a couple of hundred dollars more; I experience this phenomenon myself with other programs).

            Some people DO need to live alone (if they have no immediate family, I mean are Unable to live with unrelated random room mates)My cousin lives in S. NH. Single and in his late 50s his entire community his job (blue collar) and support system is there so moving would be very bad for him if that's what people would suggest. NH may be particularly difficult for someone like him because he had only ONE "choice" of insurance. I don't know if that means no competition to lower price?

            I think we need to not be in denial that some people's needs are not currently met, people who cannot afford subsidies. Given the numbers of people who the ACA helps it is worth it, sadly, to currently have a much smaller # of people like my cousin-maybe only 100s of thousands

            But if you are that person it sucks.

            •  If he's just over the amount for Medicaid (0+ / 0-)

              He should be able to get help paying premiums on the exchanges, making it very low cost.

              No way he's paying the full price of the premiums.

              Women create the entire labor force.
              Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

              by splashy on Sat May 10, 2014 at 07:35:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's curious you question the veracity of this. (0+ / 0-)

                Me, my cousin, and two navigators against your claim that something "should be" a certain way.

                Maybe this was misleading, surely it was not clear so that's on me. I did not say he is paying full price, or mean that. People who can't afford subsidies, I said, meaning he can't afford it even with the subsidies.

                I didn't say it outright because We All Know that if you make just over the cutoff for extended Medicaid (it is extended Medicaid I'm talking about not just  Medicaid) you will get maximum subsidies.

                He cannot afford it with the subsidies. They aren't enough. There are a whole bunch of people, probably 100s of thousands (so a tiny percentage of the overall) who make just over the extended Medicaid cut off who cannot afford plans even with the subsidy.

                There are people here on DK with families who have said that their premium with subsidy is <$100/month. My cousin--single man late fifties in an expensive area with only one company one plan at each level--was required to pay with subsidy over $200/month

                He can't afford it. As I said before, we shouldn't be in denial that there are working class people who are falling between the cracks and can't afford their insurance WITH the subsidy. I suspect it is mostly single people in expensive areas (as explained above). That does not mean what he has is better or that he could do better not with the ACA, that is not the argument.
                It is that he can't cover  himself with the ACA.

  •  Ductal Carcinoma story (0+ / 0-)

    Just a story, anecdotal evidence.  A friend was diagnosed with this, in the rural town I live in.  She had a lumpectomy.  Next mammogram they saw the same thing.  She was contemplating a  double mastectomy, really getting ready psychologically to go the whole way.  

    Then she went to San Francisco for a second opinion at UCSF.  With better imaging facilities they discovered there was no cancer, so she cancelled plans for the mastectomy.

    What if she had not gone for that second opinion?  A number of women in this town have had their breast removed based on local mammograms.  How many of these operations were unnecessary?

    "A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation." - Mayor of Bogota

    by Time Waits for no Woman on Thu May 08, 2014 at 08:00:00 PM PDT

  •  In IN we don't need no stinkin' Expansion! (0+ / 0-)

    Or so says our genius governor, Mike Pence.  There was an article in our paper today saying that the GOP is "talking to Pence about 2016...  And Pence is listening!"  I wish he were listening to those of us who have written him letters & called his office, urging him to consider accepting the expansion.  I wish he were listening to the medical professionals & hospital administrators who are warning of the dire consequences of ignoring the opportunity for expansion.  And, I wish he were listening to the success stories out of Arkansas & other states where their governors have stepped up to truly lead.  Mike Pence in 2016?!  Well, at least the GOP never fails to disappoint!

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