Dos Palos, Calif. - A couple in Dos Palos is trying to figure out how they're going to afford an Affordable Care Act penalty that will cost them thousands of dollars. Bill and Brenda Lawrence say their situation is evidence lawmakers need to take a closer look at the Affordable Care Act because they are being penalized at a time when they can least afford it.
"We both had good jobs, good insurance, good benefits and when that went away you don't think much about it until you are in it and we are in it and it's a mess," said Dos Palos resident Bill Lawrence.
Lawrence was let go from his job of 30 years. With his wife Brenda retired, Bill began using his hands as a contracted farm worker. The Affordable Care Act is now their option for healthcare. Brenda had to provide the couple's annual income.
"In October of 2015 we had to estimate what our wages would be for the following year. So I estimated based on a 40 hour week at the rate he was making and submitted that to Covered California," said Brenda.
That estimate was a costly mistake.
"We ended up being $4,000 over what I estimated which put us one percent over the 400 percent allotment and we owe the federal government $9,900," said Brenda.
In the fields Bill's workload fluctuates.
"He had very little work in January, February, March, it's planting season now, so now he is working. I'm not sure how to estimate something like that," said Brenda.
Bill says projecting a larger annual income won't work either.
"We can say ok. Next year we are going to estimate way high, but then your premiums go up," said Bill.
The Lawrences hope lawmakers will make real changes to the national healthcare situation.
"They need to forget about democrats and republicans and all that and they just need to think as basic human beings," said Bill. "It just needs to be right, it needs to be fair, and it needs to be not so complicated."
The Lawrence family says they are going to have to find a way to pay the federal bill, but the reason they wanted to do this story was they wanted to let people know there has to be a better way to afford healthcare in California and across the United States.