Last October, when I was irked by some difficulty breathing and a throbbing pain in my chest, I didn’t think much of packing up my textbook and calling my Sunday-morning cram session to a temporary halt.
Thanks to the insurance coverage provided my dad’s employer, the financial costs of a drop-in visit to our local doctor is a non-issue.
I’m lucky that's true. The pain in my chest? A tumor large enough to trigger the collapse of my left lung and begin to displace my heart.
The great “hot topic” on Capitol Hill right now is healthcare reform. It makes sense -- with the Baby Boomer generation quickly reaching an age at which they’ll be eligible for the government health insurance for older Americans, Medicare, the projected costs of these programs are a serious concern.
The rallying cry for those in favor of reform has been healthcare for the middle class and for the uninsured.
An important subgroup among the uninsured are those with “pre-existing conditions,” or medical issues that were present before healthcare coverage was obtained. Some of the more commonly seen pre-existing conditions include depression, stroke, or diabetes.
And, of course, cancer.
Finding health insurance with a pre-existing condition like non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma isn’t something I’m looking forward to. But I won’t be covered by my family’s plan forever -- which makes what Washington decides to do with healthcare an issue of more than keen interest.
The costs of lacking coverage
Life isn’t cheap. The scans, radiation, drugs, surgeries, and extensive hospital stays associated with chemotherapy add up fast, quickly reaching numbers that no average working family could hope to afford. Even after treatment is completed, cancer survivors can expect check-ups for the rest of their lives.
The risks involved with living without insurance run high even for people who aren’t -- or at least don’t seem -- sick. When you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, it may seem practical to skip a visit to the doctor in favor of paying off other bills.
In my case, the consequences of that course of action would have been dire. And while cancer will by no means strike all, or even most, of the uninsured, all it takes is one accident or illness to shatter a family’s entire world.
Pre-Existing Condition Limits Career Possibilities
Healthcare concerns can also hamper employment possibilities. For me, the thought of trying to obtain health insurance out on the market with a pre-existing condition serves as quite a deterrent to entrepreneurship. It also seems likely that I’ll never work for a small business, which can’t operate in large risk pools like big corporations and offer the same kinds of comprehensive policies.
And with waves of layoffs becoming a way of life, even corporate employment isn’t a safe bet.
All of which means I’ll be keeping an eye on reform efforts… because the decisions they make will hit very close to home for me.