In 1991, when my Mom was 46 years old, my Dad (who was self employed) paid $50,000 to Rush Hospital in Chicago in order to get my Mom admitted for a procedure in the hospital. Doctors told my mother that a bone marrow transplant would give her a fighting chance against metastatic breast cancer. Although we had insurance coverage, our insurance company considered a bone marrow transplant “experimental.” Experimental meant that the insurance company wasn’t going to pay for it.
Prior to this, my Mom had a mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment. After the bone marrow transplant, three tumors would develop on her brain in which she would then endure radiation treatments. The total bill for all of my Mom’s treatments and stay was well over $300,000. With tears in her eyes, she told my Dad, “Bill, if I live and we have to live in a box on the street, what good is that?”
After 2 year battle with metastatic breast cancer my Mom died at 47 years old; I was 17 years old. Immediately after, our health insurance company raised my Dad’s premium to $600.00 a month. He had no choice but to drop our coverage. I saw bills continue to roll in from my Mom’s treatment along with late notices to pay the mortgage. My Dad managed to hold on to the house. We ate a lot of frozen waffles.
Not having health insurance wouldn’t only have an effect on my health then, but in the future. I remember being sick but not wanting to worry my Dad. I knew we simply didn’t have money to spend at the doctor because we were no longer insured. “A partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act could cost up to 13 million children to lose their health coverage.” When doctors and dentists tell me now that I have a very high threshold for pain, I know where that developed from.
Despite having access to healthcare from insurance now, I drove myself to the emergency room when I needed my appendix out (I didn’t want to wake my kids and thought I just had the flu). I was in labor with my first child for 2 1/2 days refusing any drugs because it wasn’t “that bad yet.” I’m also the one who finally went in to the doctor after my whole cheek swelled up from a tooth that needed a root canal. The dentist said the tooth was actually loose because the inflammation was pushing the tooth out. I’m not sure I was born with a high threshold for pain, but rather, it was a learned behavior.
According to the Congressional Budget Office report, enacting the American Health Care Act means that, “In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.” No one should ever be in jeopardy of losing their house over medical bills. No one should have to think they are a financial burden on their spouse or partner because they get sick. No child should be worried to tell their parent they are sick. No parent should have to worry about their child getting sick because they can’t afford to get them the care need. No one should have to think because they have had an illness in the past or in their family history that an insurance company can refuse to cover them.
Where is our line in the sand that We the People no longer allow politicians to cross? Prior to this election, I use to think that covering pre-existing conditions, access to health for all and caring for vulnerable populations was something we held together strong on. We’ve made a few gains in the 25 years that my Mom died. By the House passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which repeals major parts of ObamaCare, the estimate premium surcharge for a 40 year old diagnosed with the cancer my Mom died from tops the list: $142,650 more for patients with metastatic cancer. That’s a hard pill to swallow.