When I was six months old, I had three benign tumors removed from my body. According to my dad, I had one on the top of my head, on my back and in my groin. Before I could even crawl or walk, I became someone with a pre-existing condition. During my senior year of college, I had a benign tumor removed from my right breast. Before I even graduated college, I had established a pre-existing condition for tumors in my breast.
When I graduated college, I didn’t have a job lined up and worked part-time jobs in retail. My dad kept me on his insurance for as long as he could, and when I had to get off his insurance, I had catastrophe only coverage until I got a job in my field.
For as long as I could remember, my dad stressed to me that I always needed insurance because if I had a gap, I would have an impossible time getting coverage again because of pre-existing conditions. Since my body had the tendency to form tumors for some unknown reason. I had a pre-existing condition since I was six months old.
I have wanted to go back to school for my master’s degree, but could never figure out a way to do so while maintaining health insurance. I could not risk having a gap in my coverage. While I did not quite understanding the intricacies in health care insurance in my early- and mid-twenties, all I knew was that I could not have a gap. I stayed at jobs that I didn’t want to because I needed healthcare insurance coverage.
Since 2010, I have undergone more medical tests and surgeries than most have in their entire lives. I have had the following: a lumpectomy, seven rounds of chemotherapy, full thyroidectomy, 35 rounds of radiation, a laparoscopic procedure to drain an ovarian cyst, a double mastectomy, four months of reconstruction, a tissue expander exchange surgery, a superficial cyst removed from my right fake boob, and a major surgery to remove my right ovary and the aforementioned cyst that grew back and doubled in size. In addition to all of these procedures and surgeries, I have had countless doctor’s office visits and blood draws, as well as a handful of CT scans and MRIs.
My first chemotherapy – the least expensive option and the one all insurance companies insist that doctors try first – ended with me going into anaphylaxis. The remaining six chemotherapy treatments were the most expensive ones – Abraxane
I. Am. Expensive. To. Keep. Alive.
I never asked for this. I don’t revel in this, and I would trade this body of mine for one that does not do this. Seriously, I would trade in a heartbeat. My body forms cysts and tumors – sometimes malignant but the majority have been benign – without warning or explanation. Maybe there’s a reason or condition that I have, but as of right now, I don’t know.
A refresher on the ACA and the protections it was designed to provide:
- Requires insurance plans to cover people with pre-existing health conditions, including pregnancy, without charging more
- Provides free preventive care
- Gives young adults more coverage options
- Ends lifetime and yearly dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits
- Helps you understand the coverage you’re getting
- Holds insurance companies accountable for rate increases
- Makes it illegal for health insurance companies to cancel your health insurance just because you get sick
- Protects your choice of doctors
- Protects you from employer retaliation
This protection gave me the most peace of mind:
“Insurance companies can’t set a dollar limit on what they spend on essential health benefits for your care during the entire time you’re enrolled in that plan.”
My insurance company cannot drop me for being too expensive. I can focus on being healthy first and foremost, not worried that the next surgery will cost me my health insurance.
This protection gave me comfort and relief:
“Under current law, health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a ‘pre-existing condition’ — that is, a health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts.”
I am not married, and I own a home. Heaven forbid I lose my job (please God, do not let this happen), I am on my own. Sometimes events happen which are out of our control. Illness and chronic conditions are not punishments for misdeeds or moral failures. Sometimes bad things happen for no reason, and that is terrifying to admit and understand. I don’t know when the next cyst or tumor is going to come. I would like to think I am done with them but history has demonstrated that won’t be the case.
If I lose my insurance but still need a surgery or treatment to get myself back to good health, I either have two options: bankruptcy caused by medical bills or just not having the surgery or treatment because I don’t have a literal money tree in my backyard. Men and women in the U.S. are forced into bankruptcy at an alarmingly frequent rate because of medical bills.
With or without insurance, being sick is costly. Co-pays, missed time from work, gas to doctor’s appointments, parking fees, deductibles, medication, so on.
When I come across comments online from other Americans who don’t know that “Obamacare” is also the same as the ACA, or believe that people without healthcare are just lazy folks who don’t work hard enough, part of my soul dies a little. Good health is a gift, not a guarantee. I have yet to come across someone bitching about “Obamacare” who is lower- and middle-class and have gone through extreme medical trauma and hardship.
Despite having scars from literally the top of my head to my knees, I became a marathoner. I have finished 10 half marathons, one marathon, two 10-mile races, and numerous 10K and 5K races, well as other distances.
You know what made all of those races possible? Answer: access to healthcare, which includes surgeries, medication, chemotherapy, radiation, scans, whatever. If I have the ability, then I am always going to strive to be a runner first. I know I’m always going to be the one who has “the problems,” or who seen as “sick all the time.” I don’t want to be that person. I want to be a runner who kicks ass and takes name.
If the politicians allow lifetime caps and pre-existing conditions to come back, then my dreams of running marathons in cities all over the country or world will disappear. I want to live a life full of purpose, goals and accomplishments. If my insurance company is free to impose lifetime bans or drop coverage for me for whatever reason they want, then I will be the person that “Obamacare” opponents hate: someone on Medicaid.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.