I am a wife, sister, friend, community volunteer and a tax-paying, small-business owner. I am a mother, with fond hopes of becoming a grandmother before too long.
I am a member of the group that includes half of all American adults who have one or more chronic health conditions. Pre-Affordable Care Act, asthma made me ineligible for an individual insurance policy.
If the latest version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act passes, I, along with many others, will be in jeopardy. Health insurance companies will be allowed to refuse coverage to us or to charge so much that we won’t be able to afford insurance.
My fear is not tied to a hypothetical “what if.” Nor is it limited to asthma. Last year, I learned that I have breast cancer. It was one week before a trip to New York City to visit my youngest son and his fiancée, and one month before my oldest son’s wedding. I was able to participate fully in those two events, knowing that while my future was uncertain, our health insurance would cover the majority of the medical expenses I would incur in the effort to treat my cancer.
I’ve recently completed diagnosis and treatment. First, was a series of diagnostic and lab tests. Next, five months of chemotherapy, followed by lumpectomy, breast reconstruction and radiation. Along the way I have needed physical therapy, herbal medicine, acupuncture and massage (all approved by my physicians, and not covered by insurance) to alleviate treatment side-effects. As expected, that successful course of treatment came with a high price tag.
Even with a decent insurance plan, we struggled financially during this past year. I lost most of a year’s income. On top of that, we incurred our plan’s full $6,800 in deductible expenses. We had, and continue to have, additional expenses for non-covered items required to cope with my illness. Without health insurance, we would not have "just" struggled. We would have been destroyed by the expenses involved.
Physically and psychologically, this was a frightening and disruptive experience for me. It also affected my husband, my adult children, their significant others, other close family members and friends.
Cancer patients are well familiar with terror and distress. First the terror of the diagnosis, then the distress of difficult treatments and their side effects. Once treatment is completed, there remains the frightening awareness that cancer can come back at any time. There are no guarantees of cure for most cancers, and recurrences are not unusual.
Now a heartless segment of our nation’s political leadership has created an additional cause for terror. I, and others like me, face the possibility of losing health insurance needed to help cover the cost of necessary after care: ongoing medication, monitoring, screening and specialized medical care.
What if I one day again hear the words: “You have cancer”? I have to live with that fear. I should not also have to be afraid that I will be unable to pay for the required health care should that fear become reality. Nor should my family should be subjected to that burden.
No one should. Our nation can do better. Let’s work together to improve the ACA. Let’s take care of our own. Let’s make sure that every child, every senior citizen, every adult has access to affordable health care that covers preventive care and pre-existing conditions, funds contraceptive care, covers mental health care, prescription medications, rehabilitative therapies and chiropractic care. It will make us stronger as a country to do this.
I am thankful that Maryland Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen stand firmly with the people in fighting for comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage available to all. The current version of the proposed Republican health care legislation, revealed Thursday, would be a disaster for Marylanders’ health, and for our state’s economy. I call upon Gov. Larry Hogan to strongly oppose the bill and to stand for comprehensive health care coverage that also covers prescriptions pre-existing conditions at rates that average Marylanders can afford.
Nancy L. Seibel is a life coach; her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.