CHELSEA, Mich. ― People who depend on the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions have a great deal at stake in Tuesday’s elections. But so do people who rely on Medicaid, even though they’ve gotten a lot less attention this election cycle.
Aaron Robertson is one of those people. Robertson, 35, lives in Chelsea, Michigan, a city of roughly 5,000 people that’s about an hour’s drive west of Detroit. He works in a downtown coffee shop, making enough money to support himself but not enough to buy health insurance. He went without coverage for many years until 2015, when he signed up for Michigan’s version of Medicaid.
The timing was fortuitous, because just a few months later, while helping his uncle perform some maintenance on a boat, he slipped off a 12-foot ladder and shattered several bones in his foot. The treatment would eventually involve two separate surgeries, plus months of rehabilitation.
It was painful, except in the financial sense. Medicaid took care of bills, leaving him with only a handful of out-of-pocket expenses.
“I was lucky,” Robertson told me during a recent interview, on a rainy evening just days before the election. Without Medicaid, he figures, he would have ended up bankrupt and maybe permanently disabled, because he would have skipped follow-up care and probably the second surgery, even though the first procedure didn’t fully repair the damage.
“I probably couldn’t work, I’m not sure what I would have done,” Robertson said. “How can you afford anything if you can’t work?”