There's an H1N1 flu outbreak in Northern California, my college-aged daughter is sick, and the ACA is already making a difference.
January 13, 2014

When I saw the stories about the H1N1 outbreak in Northern California, I texted my daughter at college in Santa Cruz and told her to get herself to a clinic and get a flu shot immediately.

This is no ordinary flu outbreak, I explained. It's killing otherwise healthy 23-year olds and seems to be targeting young people. Worst of all, two deaths in Santa Cruz have been attributed to the virus. I didn't tell her the stories were scaring the living daylights out of me, but I think she got the message.

Still, I was not prepared for her text to me today, where she remarked on the irony that I would be bugging her to get a flu shot yesterday and today she has a fever and cough.

The cold chills that ran up my spine were paralyzing. I'm 350 miles away from her, I have absolutely no idea whether her fever is just in the low-grade range or worse because she doesn't have a thermometer and just slammed back some Tylenol before heading out to class. Not that fever is a sole indicator, but if it's over 100 degrees it's more likely to be the flu than a common cold.

It's tough to make a mom diagnosis from a distance, and tougher still to communicate a sense of urgency without instilling panic. My biggest concern is that she get to a doctor and get some Tamiflu if possible, or at least just get evaluated to see if it's a cold or the flu. Ordinarily I'd just wait it out, but this pH1N1 flu has my radar on overdrive.

Obamacare to the rescue! Just in the nick of time, we finally got our member numbers on the new ACA policy and temporary ID cards today. I went to the doctor lookup on our insurer's website and was able to find an in-network Urgent Care clinic close to the school. They do have a health clinic at the school, but past experience suggests a much longer wait than I'm comfortable with in these circumstances. I sent her the name, address and phone number and ordered her in my Mom Voice to go to the clinic as soon as possible, especially if her fever rose.

If this had happened last year, we would have been trying to figure out whether she should just go to the emergency room as a precaution and figure out how to pay the inevitable Big Bill later. Now she can walk into an urgent care clinic, plunk down $15 for the visit, and hopefully get some Tamiflu by tomorrow, since the sooner one uses that, the better.

Or, we'll discover that I overreacted to a common cold, she'll get her free flu shot, and we'll all rest better at night.

Either way, I am relieved that she has a place she can be seen immediately for evaluation by qualified medical personnel without having to sign a mortgage on the house for an ER visit.

Here are my takeaways from today's episode of "Obamacare to the Rescue":

  1. Sign up for health insurance NOW, especially if you're young and healthy. This flu likes young and healthy people. Be prepared.
  2. Get a flu shot NOW. There's plenty of vaccine available. Do it before you come down with something.
  3. Do an advance lookup of urgent care providers in your area to have on hand if you have a situation that isn't immediately life-threatening but needs attention. By having the information on hand, you will have the peace of mind of knowing you can get care for situations where your primary provider isn't available.
  4. Check your medicine cabinet and make sure you have a working thermometer and the basics for symptoms, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever control.
  5. Wash your hands!

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