Lunch at Petite Jacqueline in which We Celebrate Joan’s Birthday and Hear Good News about the Affordable Care Act

A tasty lunch at Petite Jacqueline
A tasty lunch at Petite Jacqueline

Yesterday, with a merry heart, I drove to Portland to meet my friends Joan and Susan at Petite Jacqueline, where we celebrated Joan’s birthday. (Yes, I know. I’m involved in a lot of birthday celebrations. And I just love it.) The food is oh so tasty at Petite Jacqueline, and the servers let us talk long after the restaurant had closed for the afternoon. I also must admit that I have a soft spot for any restaurant that has a “Bonjour” sign at its entrance. The sign seems like a sweet little nod to the Franco-American population of the state, a population that at 30 percent is so large that it’s almost not a minority.

We talked about many things—my writing projects; Susan’s various performances—she’s a very talented actor; and Joan’s renovation of the family farm, a huge endeavor that Joan is approaching with pluck and energy. But one of the most interesting parts of the conversation was Susan’s description of getting insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also sometimes known as Obamacare. (Sorry, Joan! I know how you hate that term.)

A bit of a backstory: Susan Poulin and her husband, Gordon Carlisle, are one of Maine’s power art couples. She is an actor, he is an artist, and they are able to support themselves through their work. This is a testament not only to their prodigious talent but also to their hard work and organizational skills. To say I admire them is quite an understatement.

Because they are self-employed, Susan and Gordon have had to buy their own health insurance, and for years they went with Dirigo Health, a state-sponsored plan. As with most freelancers, Susan and Gordon’s income varies, and sometimes they had to pay $500 per month for insurance while other years they had to pay as much as $900 per month, a hefty price for an actor and an artist. Quite a burden, in fact.

Now that the Affordable Care Act is in effect, Dirigo is ending, and Susan and Gordon had to change health-care plans. With the help of a certified “navigator,” Susan and Gordon successfully enrolled in the silver plan offered by the Affordable Care Act. Their new cost? $188 a month, with benefits as good as their old $500 to $900 plan.

“When I heard the price, I had tears in my eyes,” Susan admitted. “We can easily afford $188 a month.”

Her advice for people who have affordable health insurance through their work or through Medicare yet like to gripe about the Affordable Care Act? “Shut the ‘bleep’ up. You have no idea how expensive it is to buy health insurance on your own.”

Naturally, I was thrilled to hear that because of the Affordable Care Act, Susan and Gordon soon would have affordable health insurance that provided great coverage. It’s not only good for them, but it’s also good for other people who want to work for themselves. They now have the freedom to do so without worrying about the cost of health care, and it is my guess the Affordable Care Act is going to be a huge boon for artists and entrepreneurs and, in turn, for this country. Without affordable health care, there can be no freedom, no security, and this stifles creativity.

I was also thrilled for Clif and me. Clif is 6 years older than I am, and in 4 years he will be able to retire with decent if modest benefits as well as Medicare. However, I will only be 60, and I most definitely have a preexisting condition—I was diagnosed with breast cancer 3 years ago. I hated the thought of Clif having to work until he was 72 so that I could have affordable health insurance, and now he won’t have to do so.

Susan gave me permission to use her story because she wanted readers to know the good news about the Affordable Care Act. It is true that the beginning has had a rough start. Nevertheless, the good that will come from the Affordable Care Act far outweighs the bumpy start.

It is my guess that in the future, Obama (BHO?) will attain the same status as FDR and LBJ when it comes to progressive legislation that has done so much good for so many people.

Despite rough beginnings, sometimes this country does move forward.