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What does health insurance mean to this 20-something?

In 2009, I was healthy, preparing to graduate from college, and getting ready to start on a career that I love with an exciting opportunity at a new startup in an emerging field. And when I say startup, I mean startup. Shoe-string, even. There were only two of us. It was pretty risky, but I was beyond excited.

But then—out of the blue—I was diagnosed with a chronic condition that nearly derailed it all. Luckily, I was able to get treatment and was soon back to being myself. But I had two things added to my life: daily medicine to keep the condition in check, and a "pre-existing condition." That’s when I really got why this whole health insurance thing matters.

Taking a risk in business is one thing, but taking a risk with my health was not an option. The offer to pursue the career of my dreams didn’t include a health plan, and with my newly-minted pre-existing condition, it was unlikely I would be able to buy an affordable one on my own.

The saving grace was that I was able to stay on my parents' plan for a few years. And that coverage gave me the freedom to choose what was right for me.

And now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it’s going to stay that way. When it was time for me to shop on the marketplace for my own coverage this winter, I was protected: No plan could deny me because of my pre-existing condition. I found one that is really comprehensive and is still within my budget. Now, I'm healthy, and I've got my own plan that I can afford and rely on.

Sure, my health will always be a factor in my life, but whose isn’t? The important thing is that it doesn’t define who I am, and it doesn’t dictate my choices. I can live the life I want to live, and that’s what matters.

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