I have cancer. I purchase my health insurance in the individual market. Which should worry me more?
October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with the annual display of pink ribbons and awareness campaigns, one could barely make it through a day without hearing about breast cancer on the radio, on television, the newspapers and online.
I was certainly on board for the cause. On September 27, I encouraged Care2 readers to Blog For Your Breasts. On October 4, I wrote that Breast Cancer is Not Just for Women. The following day, I questioned the effectiveness of the I Like It on the Kitchen Table campaign. On October 19, I shared Dr. Hilda Hutcherson’s suggestions for Three Lifesaving Tests for Women, one of which is the mammogram.
All the while, an aggressive and fast-growing tumor was growing inside my own right breast. With all I knew about breast cancer, I did not know that a tumor could grow so quickly. I did not see this train coming until it hit me.
There is no history of breast cancer in my family. In fact, I am unaware of any cancer in my family. That, plus my lifestyle choices, put me in a rather low-risk category. A mammogram of just 13 months ago was clean.
I found the lump myself and was in a doctor’s office the very next day. But that first visit to the doctor spoke volumes about health care in America. When he handed me a receipt on which he wrote the words “breast lump,” my thoughts were not about my health. Instead, I was terror-struck by the knowledge that those words would make their way to my health insurer. I already have multiple sclerosis… and an individual insurance policy.
With annual increases of 30-35 percent in previous years, my fear is not unfounded. But here’s the kicker. A few days later, I received a letter from my insurer. My heart pounded as I opened the envelope, certain that some new horror was about to befall me. Instead, I read:
“Health care reform is now law… You are eligible for the following benefits beginning on January 1, 2011: No lifetime dollar limits or maximums.”
What that means at this particular time in my life is difficult to put into words. My premiums, high deductibles, and co-pays weigh heavily, and this new benefit is of no small comfort.
Meanwhile, the Republican Congressman from my district has retained his seat. The number one item on his agenda? Repeal the health care law.
The Affordable Care Act is not the health care law we wanted, but it is poised to begin moving us toward a more compassionate and fair system, one where concern over life and death issues would trump fear of insurers. Basic security to health care. What a concept!
I have many decisions to make now and in the months to come with regard to family, employment, and finances. Because of my experiences with multiple sclerosis, I expect to have my share of hassles with billing departments and my insurer. That’s a given.
I hope that I do not also have to witness the hard-won battle for health care unravel.
Photo Credit: http://www.kingcounty.gov