Karmel Allison could feel the sun beating down on her. She is pregnant, and she was worried about having to use the restroom while she was standing behind President Barack Obama during his speech Monday morning on the Affordable Care Act. So she didn’t drink much water before the speech.
But suddenly, she felt dehydrated. She began seeing stars. And next thing she knew…
“I was being caught by the President of the United States,” she said in a phone interview with Business Insider Monday afternoon.
“This happens when I talk too long,” Obama joked after he broke the woozy Allison’s fall in the Rose Garden.
Allison was at the White House Monday because she is a potential beneficiary of the Affordable Care Act. She hasn’t decided yet if she will switch insurance plans, but she likes having the ability to do so.
When she was 9 years old, Allison was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a lifelong condition that most often strikes in childhood. It’s also a condition that many insurers have considered a pre-existing condition.
Because of that, Allison has decided to stay on her plan — which she was on before she was diagnosed — for about two decades, despite rising costs, because she feared that another plan wouldn’t cover her due to her pre-existing condition. She said that she felt, in a way, “married” to her current plan, from Kaiser Permanente. The only time she considered switching was when she was a student at UC Berkeley — but she didn’t have any guarantees that she could get back on her old plan afterward.
The Affordable Care Act changes that, and makes it against the law for an insurance company to discriminate against a prospective buyer with a pre-existing condition.
“I had never actively looked for other coverage, because what I had was working, and the message I was getting from all the other insurance companies was, ‘Why would we cover a Type 1 diabetic? There’s no obligation for us to do that. And we’re not going to do that for anything remotely close to affordable,’” Allison said.
When she began browsing California’s exchange website, CoveredCA.com, she was floored by what she experienced. There was a simple questionnaire that asked about her age, income, and family size. Nothing about her diabetes. Nothing like, as she put it, “Have you already had cataract surgery because of this stupid disease?”
“When I went on the website, I wasn’t even necessarily looking to purchase coverage, which is why it was kind of a shocking experience that I was touched by it,” she said. “My husband and I are reviewing our options, now that we have other options.”
On Oct. 7, Allison wrote a blog post entitled, “What Obamacare Feels Like To A Diabetic.” The post gained traction all the way up to the American Diabetes Association, which sent it to the White House. On Friday, the ADA asked her if she’d like to come to Washington for Obama’s event.
“I’m just very grateful to the President for all the work he’s done to get this law enacted, and I’m very grateful to the ADA for all they did to allow me to be here, and for all they do on a regular basis,” Allison said.