Being diagnosed with a brain tumor the size of her fist is something Amanda Pratt never thought she would face. At 28 years old, Pratt has had five surgeries to remove the tumor, and though on the road to recovery she faces years of check-ups and treatments to ensure she stays well.
That's already somewhat jarring for young woman. Maybe it should have prepared her for what she saw when she went to the doctor last week. That's where she got another shock: the cost of some of her care now that Obamacare had started taking effect.
Even more surprising? Initially, Pratt said she noticed that her insurance premiums went down -- $14 per month to be exact. She received a 30-or-so-page booklet detailing in small print the changes to her plan that would come under Obamacare. But she didn't look closely enough to avoid her recent sticker shock.
Amanda Pratt is studying social work at USC. In 2011, a CT scan found a brain tumor, which led to a series of five surgeries. Though the tumor has been removed, Pratt still faces several check-ups, which after Obamacare went into effect she said now come with costly copays. (Photo credit: Amanda Pratt)
Last week Pratt visited her primary care physician with a sore throat. It was strep. At the receptionist's window and afterward at the pharmacy to fill a prescription, Pratt learned just how much more she would be paying for care.
"My copay for seeing the doctor went up $30 to $60. My copay for prescriptions went up $20 to $60 as well," Pratt told TheBlaze.
But that's not even the kicker. Having an MRI, something Pratt will need once a year for the next five years to monitor her brain, went from an $800 copay to $2,200.
After seeing these costs, Pratt wrote to a contact she had from when she had interned in the office of Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.).
"The response I got back was 'yeah, we get this all the time. There's nothing really we can do," Pratt recounted. "It was so bland and not really compassionate."
So, she thought "OK, this is my life now, I have to figure a way around."
A brain tumor at 24
The tumor can be seen in the middle this scan showing Pratt's brain. (Photo credit: Amanda Pratt)
When the woman from Corona, Calif., graduated with her undergraduate degree from The King's College in New York and entered the working world, she had a hard time finding a full-time job. She went back to the fast-food restaurant where she worked in high school and took a part-time position.
This part-time job at the fast-food chain, even after she worked her way up into the corporate office, didn't provide medical insurance, though. Pratt said being 24 years old at the time, she wanted to be responsible and purchase her own insurance.
At the same time, she was experiencing pain. She remembers having headaches back into her college years.
"I kept thinking, it must be allergies or something," she said, noting that she took Claritin to try to combat what she thought was the issue.
After graduating, she saw a few doctors about the pain, but didn't get anywhere.
"I got to point where I thought no one was listening to me," she said.
Frustrated, Pratt cancelled the health insurance that was taking a chunk from her paycheck each month, but not for long.
"My grandma called me and she was so mad at me. She yelled at me, and I called back and got my health care reinstated," Pratt said, noting that her grandmother also set her up with an appointment with her primary care physician.
That was all on a Wednesday in 2011. By Thursday, Pratt was in the doctor's office and had her head scanned as the doctor tried to figure out what might be ailing her for so long.
"I hadn't even left the pharmacy before he called back and said I had a brain tumor," she said.
Pratt with one of her doctors before her first surgery. Though a self-professed worrier, she said she was amazingly calm during this process. (Photo credit: Amanda Pratt)
On Friday, Pratt was in surgery to begin removing the 7.8-centimeter tumor that would be diagnosed as an extremely rare form of cancer as brain tumors go.
Pratt's benign tumor was removed in several surgeries with her fifth and final surgery in 2012 being to insert a shunt in her head to drain excess fluid that was building up. This shunt, though, uses magnets that need to be reset in a procedure every time she has an MRI, which for the woman already facing higher copays is just an another cost to add to the stack.
"I have to go to doctor fairly regularly, so I have to have expensive visits," she said.
'The road to hell is paved in good intentions'
Pratt thinks Obamacare is impacting her pocketbook in more ways than one. In addition to facing steeper medical bills, she said her part-time work has been cut so her employer could avoid the provision requiring insurance for employees working 30 hours or more a week.
"Before the [Affordable Care Act] I was working 35 hours a week, now I’m working 24," Pratt, who works in the fast-food restaurant's customer service department, said.
Pratt said she is working on navigating how should could qualify through various aid programs and noted that she has tried to check out the health care options offered in the federal exchange. In the two times she has tried to log onto the state-based exchange website in the last two weeks, it hasn't worked, she said.
"The Affordable Care Act in general, I think, it's a great idea, but the road to hell is paved in good intentions. I don’t think they expected the fallout from business in general," she said.
The fact that businesses have cut hours for part-time employees coupled with government mandated insurance and other factors, make the expense a difficult burden for some.
"I don’t feel the government should have a say in what you need to purchase when it comes to your own well being," Pratt, who is going back to school for a masters in social work, said. "I think it’s a good idea, but I don’t see where the government has authority to step in and say what's good for you."
She also worries about doctors dropping out of the field in the aftermath of Obamacare.
From her perspective, Pratt is just "just trying to be responsible and take care of my body" -- and she wants to be able to pay for it.
"Before [the Affordable Care Act,] the copays for certain services were still really expensive, but could go to the insurance company and say 'hey, I can’t afford this' and they were helping me out. In the future, I dont know if they’re going to do that."
Glenn Beck interviewed Amanda Pratt on The Glenn Beck Program, and in a web-exclusive, on Monday. See the complete web exclusive here.
This story has been updated.