Michelle Hatley's out-of-pocket insurance costs are going up due to the Affordable Care Act, and she wants others in her situation to be aware of changes that could directly affect them.
"I was really shocked," the legally blind Destin resident told The Log from her living room. "I found out this was going to affect a lot of people, so I wanted to do something."
So what did she do? Hatley wrote a letter and sent it to Sen. Marco Rubio. That same week she was contacted by the senator's Pensacola office asking if Rubio could share her experience.
In her letter, Hatley wrote that "I wanted the senator to be aware that Medicare clients are experiencing negative consequences from the ACA as well."
Not only did Sen. Rubio receive Hatley's letter, he read it aloud from the Senate floor last Thursday during a meeting.
"This is a real life story of a Medicare Advantage recipient in this country whose out-of-pocket costs are going up because of Obamacare," Rubio said. "It is wrong. It is unfair. It should not stand."
Hatley also has two auto-immune conditions that require her to go to any one of her six doctors on a regular basis, which requires not only time, but a great deal of money.
Recently, Hatley was informed by her doctors at White-Wilson that changes were being made to her Medicare Advantage plan through AARP and United Healthcare due to the implementation of the ACA, which is commonly referred to as "Obamacare."
Under the changes, Hatley, who is also a full-time college student, had to decide whether or not she wanted to keep her current doctors, which meant paying more money, or seeing a new team of caretakers, which essentially meant starting over again.
"I really trust him (Dr. Mills) 100 percent," she said. "He's been taking care of us for a long time. He knows us, he knows our history and our needs, so seeing someone else was not an option."
When Hatley found out about the changes, she did her homework and looked into the matter to see what she was up against.
"I was on the phone all day, on the phone with Medicare and three different Medicare Advantage providers, and by the time I was done, I was so sick," she said. "I just thought this really needed to be brought to the attention of people who could do something about it."
The problem, Hatley said, is the way that the insurance providers have the contracts set up. She said the contract on the plans are set to expire Feb. 1 and providers must notify their members 30 days in advance, which gives them until Jan. 1. While there is no problem with that, Hatley said the issue is that Medicare enrollment ends Dec. 7.
Had Hatley not taken action, she would have been re-enrolled into her current Medicare plan, but without the luxury of maintaining her current doctors.
"People are going to get hit with this and lose their doctors and they may not even know about it," she said. "I don't want to see anyone get blindsided."
Ultimately, Hatley chose to stay with her current doctors, which didn't come cheap. But there was really no choice for her.
"It's going to cost me more money, of course, that's the kicker," she said. "My out-of-pocket is going up by almost $2,000 annually, and then you add in the co-pays and the deductibles, and it's a tough choice that people are going to have to make."
In Hatley's case, she also had to figure in the cost of transportation to and from her doctor's appointments, since her husband works a lot and cannot take her to the doctor all the time. She said it can easily cost $25-30 each way for a cab ride to Fort Walton Beach, which is where she would have to go to see some of her doctors.
For her part, Hatley said she doesn't mind being outspoken about her experience because she wants to make sure others are not surprised by the changes.
"My two cents is to call your doctor," she said. "I was so thankful for him (Rubio) bringing light to this. It's not right and I want people to know — you've got to look out for people in your community."