David Mendoza, an accident away from financial ruin, was saved by the ACA

David Mendoza knows how much health coverage matters. It was a hard-won lesson that nearly cost him his life. But it could have also cost his family’s financial security if he hadn’t had a health care insurance policy through the Affordable Care Act.

Mendoza owns a small tree-trimming business and for many years didn’t think he could afford health insurance. Luckily he found an affordable policy through the health marketplace. Under the plan he selected, he paid $50, with a financial assistance, in monthly premiums.

Just two weeks after signing up for that health insurance plan, Mendoza suffered a serious accident while removing tree limbs from the roof of a garage. The chainsaw he was holding slipped and landed on his left arm, severing tendons and major blood vessels. Mendoza was rushed to the emergency room with a five-inch gash. The wound was cleaned and sewed up. But that was just the beginning of his medical ordeal. The emergency treatment was followed by a visit to hand specialist (to make sure he regained movement in his hand), surgery to repair torn tendons and relieve a pinched nerve and six weeks of physical rehabilitation.

 

“I had never had an accident like this in my life,” Mendoza said. “So I had never really thought about having health insurance.” As a healthy 35-year-old, Mendoza had never previously experienced any serious illness, either. Although in his line of work, he admits now, he was taking a big chance going without insurance.

Without health insurance to cover the costs of treating his injury, Mendoza said he might owe $100,000 in medical bills, or have gone without the necessary surgery and rehab that let him go back to work to support his family.

“Without medical insurance this job can’t be done,” Mendoza said. “If I don’t have insurance and I get injured again, the medical bills I would incur would destroy me financially for the rest of my life. And if I can’t afford health insurance in the future, I would have to close my business and find another line of work.”

 

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