My friend Stephanie is, to me, a perfect example of why we need “ObamaCare” to stay in place, and why we need to go even farther than the Affordable Care Act, and truly reform the way we think about and pay for health care in this country.
Steph is a young lady I met during the tail-end of my radio news anchor days. She was hired on a part-time basis to help produce talk shows, and as so many who start in that position do, she worked her way up to an on-air job. Soon realizing that her part-time status was not likely to become full-time, with the attendant “benefits” (health insurance), she left for another job which offered her full-time status and benefits.
Why one’s health insurance is linked to a job has never made sense to me. Of course, you can buy your own health insurance (if they don’t reject you for a “pre-existing condition”), just as you buy your own car insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, and life insurance (yes, I know, some benefits packages also offer a form of life insurance), but if you buy your own health insurance, you’re going to pay through the nose.
Steph was diagnosed with breast cancer several months ago. Thank GOD she had good health insurance, so her doctor bills and chemo were pretty much covered. Then, a few weeks ago, toward the end of her chemo treatments, something hit her like a bolt out of the blue. She had a stroke.
Her boyfriend got her to the hospital quickly enough to minimize the damage, but plenty of damage was done. She lost movement on much of the right side of her body. She bounced back quickly, and within a few days, was sending e-mails and posting on social websites from her hospital bed, using her left hand only, and struggling to get her brain to issue the necessary commands to accomplish the task. She will need a ton of physical therapy and a considerable number of prescription meds, on top of the huge array of chemo meds.
The doctors said she should be able to leave the hospital soon, but will need a lot of p/t in the coming weeks and months to regain some mobility and learn the work-arounds when much of the right side of your body isn’t taking commands any more.
Her employer, which I choose to identify only as a local outlet of a gigantic multi-national conglomerate, did her right when she told them the docs told her the earliest she’d likely be back at work would be December. They said her job would be there for her whenever she could come back. Steph had burned so much vacation and sick-leave time in dealing with her breast cancer and chemo, that the company said their only choice was to place her on indefinite leave, and that meant she could keep her benefits (health insurance) only by taking the dreaded COBRA – which, in her case, means she’ll be on the hook for about $550 a month.
For a young woman just getting started in a career, not making the King’s ransom in salary, and not having had enough time to stash away a bunch of money in savings, and not being able to work, $550 a month is a huge nut to crack. Her family and friends have assured her they’ll help, while she takes the long re-hab road a step at a time.
Can you imagine what her next several months will be like? Chemo, on top of intense physical therapy, and a daunting daily array of prescription meds. With no insurance, it would seem to me that any young person in a similar situation would be facing bankruptcy and other dire consequences. With her COBRA, and a lot of help from family and friends, she at least has a fighting chance to go back to work.
I don’t have to paint the entire picture for you. Her life from this point on is one huge health insurance nightmare. If the dweebs in Congress roll back all or parts of the ACA – like the ban on pre-existing conditions as a cause to reject a health insurance applicant – she’s doomed if she goes back to work and then gets laid off.
Modern medicine has already saved her life – twice. Yes, the care is expensive. Yes, the necessary medications are expensive. But for Steph, and literally thousands and thousands of other young people like her – people who often balk at paying for health insurance “because they won’t need it until they’re a lot older” – many of the key provisions of the ACA are vital.
It’ll never happen to me? It’ll never happen to my children?
Ask Steph and her family about that.