A few years ago I was a dog walker. It wasn’t as fun as I had hoped. There was the wiener dog with messed up hips who hated me. He didn’t want to leave the house┬áso I had to carry him to the end of the block and make him walk home. Then there was the woman who requested I put a diaper on her chihuahua after our walk. The stay at home mom who had a nanny for her kids and me for her dogs… that was weird.

But that was just to get me through grad school. I was getting my masters in special education. Believe it or not, dog walking does NOT have a comprehensive benefits package. Fortunately, I had health insurance through my university. I have Crohns Disease and couldn’t have gone to school without it. Sadly, I almost couldn’t finish school even with it.

Before the ACA, insurance companies could place caps on the amount of benefits you receive in a year (or lifetime). Unfortunately, the only meds that had been working for my Crohns were really expensive. I reached my yearly benefit cap after three months. My health insurance would not pay for my life saving meds for the remaining nine months of the year, even though they had acknowledged they were necessary.

I couldn’t afford my meds on my meager dog walking wages. I was in my last few months of school; I didn’t want to drop out to try find a job with better insurance. I ended up having to rely on a charity to fund my treatment. I was a full-time student, part-time worker with insurance and I still had to rely on charity.

Sadly, by the time I found the charity, submitted the paperwork, and got approved, I had missed several doses. I was able to resume treatment but it never worked the same. I wasn’t on death’s door, but I was fatigued all the time. I couldn’t get above 100 pounds. I was in pain every day,

Since the ACA was passed, I’ve never had to worry that my insurance will deny me life-saving meds. I’ve never had to worry they’ll just cut me off because my meds are too expensive or because I have a pre-existing condition. I’m lucky that I started a new course of meds that keeps me almost symptom free. But these meds are even more expensive than my previous treatments. I’m a middle school special education teacher, a tiring job for a healthy body. I couldn’t do it if I got cut off. The protections granted in the ACA have not only improved the quality of my life, they’ve allowed me to pursue a career I love. And I have enough energy to walk my dog after work.