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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An Olathe man says the health care law saved his life. Once Mike O’Dell was able to get health insurance on January 1, he was able to go on the transplant waiting list, and he now has a new heart.

On Thursday, O’Dell hugged his three children as he saw them for the first time since receiving the new heart last week at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

Back in December, O’Dell, age 41, didn’t think it could happen.

“I thought I’d deteriorate and eventually I’d pass away. It’s just been — it’s been tough,” said O’Dell.

He couldn’t afford a transplant. He qualified for Kansas Medicaid coverage for those with high medical expenses, but he couldn’t meet the spenddown requirements to have continuous coverage.

“While we could have done the transplant even without charging him, the medication he would never be able to afford,” said Dr. Andrew Kao, his heart specialist.

Anti-rejection medicine costs $4,000 a month and must be taken daily to keep the new heart.

“I didn’t want them giving me somebody else’s gift and I couldn’t afford to have it,” said O’Dell.

He couldn’t get private health insurance because of his pre-existing heart condition. But as of January 1, with the health care law, insurers can no longer deny coverage. O’Dell and his wife were able to get coverage through the health insurance marketplace for $190 a month. That allowed him to go on the transplant waiting list.

“He wouldn’t be here with me or my children if it weren’t for the Obamacare,” said O’Dell’s wife, Kate.

And his doctors say he clearly wouldn’t have lived long if he hadn’t received the gift of a stranger’s heart last week.

“Kinda like winning the lottery,” said O’Dell.

He could go home from the hospital early next week.

An infection struck O’Dell’s heart three years ago. He said before that, he was perfectly healthy and didn’t think he needed health insurance. He says now, he knows differently.