September 29, 2013

Erika Burkhart – single mom, graduate student

Nurse practitioner student is willing to pay more for Affordable Care Act's improved benefits.

By Joe Lawlor jlawlor@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Erika Burkhart, 33, is a single mom and nurse practitioner student interested in purchasing insurance in the new marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act.

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Erika Burkhart and her 18-month-old daughter, Lumi Stone, spend time together in their Portland home.

Amelia Kunhardt/Staff Photographer

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The Portland resident currently pays $120 per month for insurance that covers only catastrophic medical conditions, such as if she got in a traumatic car accident or acquired a deadly disease.

"It's irritating that I'm paying something and I'm not really getting anything for it," Burkhart said.

Burkhart has an 18-month-old daughter, Lumi, and she's been struggling with mental health issues over her breakup with Lumi's father, financial anxiety and coping with being a new parent.

"I'm paying for mental health counseling out-of-pocket right now, and it's very expensive," said Burkhart, saying she's already paid several hundred dollars and she just started counseling sessions. "I believe in mental health care."

Mental health care is one of the "essential services" mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Screenings are free, and mental health counseling is a covered benefit, which means a mid-level plan would pay for 70 percent of the counseling sessions.

Burkhart is going for her master's degree in nursing to become a nurse-practitioner. She's buried in debt for college, taking out more than $100,000 to pay for her tuition and living expenses. For the most part, she's not working while she's going to school.

While she qualifies for Maine-Care, Burkhart said she declined to sign up for it, although she signed up her daughter.

"I don't feel like I should be taking the place of someone else who really needs it. My situation is stressful, but it's not dire," Burkhart said.

But because she decided to forgo MaineCare even though she qualifies, Burkhart would have to pay for insurance in the marketplace without the benefit of subsidies, health care experts told the Press Herald.

Depending on what plan she selected, Burkhart would have to pay about $250 to $300 per month for coverage, without subsidies. But Burkhart said it would be worth it, and better than what she has now.

She said when she finishes her master's degree in three years, she should be able to get a good-paying job, be financially secure and have good health insurance.

"I don't mind paying into the system," Burkhart said. "It's the responsible thing to do."

 

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