In the summer of 2011 I discovered a lump in my right breast during a routine self examination. I didn’t go to the doctor right away because I was temporarily uninsured. I chose denial over possible bad news because I couldn’t afford expensive medical treatment if that lump turned out to be cancer. That’s what happens when you don’t have insurance. You don’t go to the doctor. The fear of high medical bills or being branded with a pre-existing condition has kept millions of Americans from seeking out medical care in the richest country in the world.
During my routine annual pap smear, paid for with cash, my doctor felt that lump and without hesitation said, “That’s got to come out right away”.
After a week of expensive screenings and biopsies, all paid for with cash, some borrowed, I learned that I did indeed have cancer. It was stage 3 because I had waited so long.
What was I going to do? If we couldn’t afford the $1500 a month health insurance premiums my self employed husband and I were buying on the individual market, we surely couldn’t afford to pay $300,000 or more for cancer treatment. Was I doomed to die a slow, agonizing, gruesome death just because I didn’t have health insurance?
We had gone through our savings and retirement to survive the recession. Because of this, I wasn’t poor enough to qualify for Medical. I was stuck in limbo where I wasn’t poor enough for Medicaid, but not wealthy enough to continue paying for outrageous insurance premiums on the individual market. We found ourselves as members of a rapidly growing population in America – the middle class poor.
We are homeowners, have two great kids, are active in our community, and my husband and are entrepreneurs. We were living the American dream until we woke up to the American nightmare and that is that our health care system is dysfunctional and corrupt. In America, good health is a product to be consumed. If you can’t afford it, too bad for you.
After getting the news that I had cancer, I went into shock. A close friend stepped in to do some research for me and discovered that I could qualify for a part of the Affordable Care Act that had already gone into effect called the Pre Existing Condition Insurance Plan or PCIP. I called them, was treated with kindness and respect, and after filling out a three page application based on my age and not health status, I found myself insured and in treatment for my cancer.
I spent the entire year of 2012 in treatment. Hard core chemo treatments for five months, a double mastectomy and reconstruction and six weeks of daily radiation. It was the worst year of my life.
It could have been a lot worse. I had the best of care from the top doctors in West Hills. This is not government run health care. I got outstanding care and am now in remission. I am lucky. Others have not been so lucky. They have died.
Out of gratitude, I vowed to learn all I could about this amazing law that is saving my life. I created a blog called, “Health Hazards” to document my journey of learning all I could about the history of Social Security, Medicare, and attempts by several other presidents to adapt some sort of universal health care system. Guess what? The Republicans put up a big stink about Social Security and Medicare too, but I don’t believe they threatened to shut down the government because of it. I researched the Affordable Care Act and became a lay expert on Obamacare, even starting my own Facebook page called, “The Smart Person’s Guide to Obamacare” – posting facts and reputable links on a daily basis to help get the truth out about this historical piece of legislation. I learned that it was a miracle that it even passed, given the intense push back from the Republicans, the many other pressing matters facing the Obama administration after George Bush’s presidency, and the worst congress in the history of the nation. I believe that the Affordable Care Act will be President Obama’s legacy and that he will be remembered as one of our greatest presidents.
Tomorrow, I along with 25 million of my fellow Americans, will be able to call our state exchanges or go online to shop for health insurance. I have been working really hard as a responsible citizen to let my fellow Californians know about Covered California. I have already done my research and it looks as though the cost of our insurance premiums will be a third of what they were when we could no longer afford them. The federal subsidies are going to insure that those of us in the struggling middle class can finally afford insurance. Health insurance companies will have to compete for our business. At long last, those of us with pre-existing conditions will no longer be denied care because we cut into insurance companies’ profits. Insurance companies can’t raise their rates whenever they feel like it or deny life saving treatment because it costs them too much. For the first time in America, young adults will be able to afford to take care of themselves and small business owners will be able to compete with large corporations by being able to offer health insurance.
Many of those who have bought in to the Republican spin about death panels, the Affordable Care Act not being constitutional, or that Obamacare covers abortions, increases the deficit, cuts Medicare, and is socialized medicine, will find themselves in the exact same situation I found myself in if they get cancer, where they learn that Obamacare saves lives. Fortunately for them, though, they won’t have to go through the added terror of fearing bankruptcy or an early death. They will get the care they need. I only hope that they will find some humility and step out in front of the hype and hysteria and admit that they, too, once believed the lies.
Tomorrow people like me and my family – those of us with pre-existing conditions, or who are self employed, or unemployed after COBRA ran out, will finally find a way out of the strangle hold that our so called free market health care system has had us in.
Tomorrow people are going to find out that they will be able to leave their dead end corporate jobs to pursue their dreams of opening their own businesses because they’ll be able to afford their own health insurance. They’ll be able to hire new employees and offer them health insurance by taking advantage of tax breaks. Obamacare will only strengthen our economy.
Tomorrow has nothing to do with the millions who are already insured through their jobs or who pay for their own individual plan and don’t want to switch. It doesn’t affect seniors on Medicare or those receiving aid through Medical.
Once Obamacare has been in effect for awhile, people will discover that they are healthier and happier after realizing that they are rid of the stress of fearing a medical catastrophe, or are free to leave unhappy jobs and marriages that they have been stuck in because of the insurance. They won’t have to worry about being branded with pre-existing conditions. They will have the courage and confidence to start their own businesses. Because of the no cost cancer, diabetes, blood pressure screenings, no cost mammograms and annual exams, immunizations and birth control, we’ll all get those screenings, mammograms, exams, immunizations and birth control. We are going to be a healthier nation, physically, mentally, and economically.