By BETSY TAYLOR
Toni Deluca doesn't mince words when she describes herself as "the working poor." She labors 25 to 30 hours a week cleaning rooms and assisting with banquets at a hotel in Boonville, Mo., about 25 miles west of Columbia, Mo.
In January of 2016, she got health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Deluca, a 57-year-old resident of Bunceton, Mo., a town of fewer than 400, said she hadn't tried to buy health insurance before then, figuring there was no way she could afford it. But she developed a sharp, chronic pain in her left side, and it motivated her to investigate the cost of coverage on healthcare.gov. (Missouri did not expand Medicaid under the ACA.) Deluca found a policy for which she currently pays $20.48 a month, after subsidies.
She scheduled an appointment to see a family practice doctor, setting it for a day after her insurance took effect. The doctor diagnosed her diabetes. Deluca returned to the doctor in July and he put her on antibiotics and treated an abscess on her side because her pain hadn't subsided.
Visits with specialists that fall, followed by a CT scan in December, revealed she had a necrotic kidney. The cause remains unknown, she says. She went into Boone Hospital Center in Columbia on Dec. 22 for surgery to remove her kidney, staying five days. She received financial assistance through the hospital to cover her portion of surgical costs. She was then off work on doctor's orders for about a month.
She says of her health insurance: "If I had not got it, there's a good chance I would not have survived this infection, so it meant everything."
Deluca, who completed high school but didn't attend college, says when she hears people suggest the repeal of the ACA, she thinks they don't understand what it means to work hard, as she does, and still not have enough money to afford medical care. Full-time jobs with benefits are hard to come by in her area of rural Missouri, she says. She doesn't have any dental coverage, again, because she can't afford it.
"I don't think they have any idea," she says of ACA opponents. "I get very vocal if asked about the Affordable Care Act. There are people who don't have options."
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