Health care reform is a women's issue. Why? Because well-being and caregiving are so closely linked.
Like it or not, much of the burden of caregiving falls on the shoulders of women. We might have legal responsibility for an aged parent or a mentally or physically disabled sibling. We might be parents ourselves. Whether a single woman or partnered, we are there for our women friends and community members to support, encourage, comfort, celebrate, and rabble rouse together...keeping each other sane.
With Hear My Story, MOMocrats launches a series that highlights the personal stories of women who support health insurance reform because they know the existing system is broken. And they've fallen through the cracks--or come close--and survived to tell about it. It's direct, concrete experience, painful and difficult--filled with the kind of worries that make your nights sleepless and long. Maybe you can relate.
Here's the story of Jennic Law, a small business owner at KangaRooBoo.com who started a children's toy company specializing in non-toxic, educational toys and games.
I voted for President Obama. I am hopeful that he WILL provide those of us with “pre-existing conditions” an affordable way to obtain health care coverage. Yes, he will. His mother was discriminated against due to her own medical conditions – he would be one to understand even if no one else does.
I am a cancer survivor. I am currently living in a health care nightmare and have been for almost 2 years. I have no health coverage. I am a married 32 years old small business owner with 2 children under 6 years old living in the midwest.
I had cancer 9 years ago. I was freshly graduated from college and a newlywed of 24 years old at the time of diagnosis. There are no cancer histories in my family, but what I had was “the best kind of cancer to have” if there ever was such a thing – Hodgkin’s disease – right up there at the top with testicular cancer. I was working for a company with group plans and thank goodness that insurance paid for all treatment-related costs. Miraculously we were able to have 2 healthy kids a few years after all the treatments. During a company restructuring, I was laid off when I was pregnant with our youngest. I didn’t bother looking for a job, I presumed no one would hire a visibly pregnant woman. I stayed home a couple of years as a Stay At Home Mom. Fortunately my husband was in a group plan with the employer he worked for at the time, so health care coverage was not a huge issue.
Fast forward to December 2006 when my husband got laid off. We were all out of health care. We got on COBRA and paid all 18-months of it (because we decided to be self-employed), exhausting it and a lot of our savings as well. After our family COBRA plan exhausted, my husband and kids got on private individual health insurance – they are all healthy and low risk so no problems – any insurance company would gladly take them without a whimper. We pay for it ourselves; it’s pretty reasonable monthly premiums with not so reasonable 80/20 co-insurance and $2500 deductible.
The kids and husband have medical coverage. I, on the other hand, have been denied health care at every insurance company except HIP. “Fortunately” the state that we are living in has HIP. And as you may know, HIP is for those of us who are un-insurable anywhere else. We are blacklisted as “high risk” and “high liability” and "untouchables."
Never mind the fact that the cancer I had is coined the “best cancer to have” medically and has one of the highest CURE rate of all cancers, never mind that I have been in remission for almost 8 years, never mind that I have been healthy all these past 7+ years, and never mind that I incurred less than $1000 of total medical costs while I was on COBRA for the entire 18 months duration.
These are things all the insurance companies tells me: NO CAN DO. You had cancer? You mentioned “cancer?” Tough luck. No insurance for you. Take a walk, have a nice day.
HIP is an option. HIP is the *only* option. However, HIP wants $700/month with $2500 deductible, 80/20 and a bunch of other limitations. Just for MYSELF.
I can’t breathe.
I can’t afford that. So I don’t have HIP. I don’t have health care coverage.
After my chemotherapy and radiation therapy ended 8 years ago, all of my oncologists advised that I start having mammograms after I turn 30, because the bulk of radiation was delivered to my chest and neck area. It is very rare, but the radiation could potentially make me more susceptible to develop breast cancer in the future. So it is recommended I get a mammogram baseline when I turned 30. I will be turning 33 very soon and I have not had one. I do feel fine though. However, I was also “fine” for my whole life except the 5 months leading up to my cancer diagnose.
[Left, extraordinarily expensive Neupogen shots (white blood cell boosters) used during chemotherapy. Cost: approximately $400 a bottle (the height of a quarter or so in size only!) and I needed 4 bottles every 2 weeks for 6 months. That's $9,600 of drugs doing the sole purpose of boosting my white blood cells during chemotherapy, not even the chemo drugs itself. All covered by insurance through an ex-employer. I wouldn't have been able to afford the medicine if I did not have insurance.]
I am willing to pay for the entire cost of the mammogram out of pocket – what I AM afraid of and the very reason why I’m not getting the mammogram yet is, what if the result shows something bad? How will I pay for the treatments?! For I am without health care coverage, and if it does come back with bad results, I would have yet one MORE “pre-existing condition”…
Even if I start paying for HIP now, which I cannot afford, I will not be covered for anything significant for at least a year. I also do not qualify for medicaid, because we have more than $2000 in assets.
So, no mammograms for me.
It’s infuriating knowing that the US, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, is the only developed, civilized country where affordable health care is not easily accessible. Even friends in Thailand have that luxury. I have friends living in Canada, Sweden and England as well, all of them are very happy with the system. One of them had cancer and then a recurrence one year later--she received great care and even 18 months of fully paid leave from her job during treatments. All three of them tell me that on top of their national health systems, everyone and anyone has the option of purchasing additional private health insurance if desired but none of them choose to.
A lot of people in the US depend on their jobs to have health coverage, a lot of people are without that health coverage nowadays because they have lost that job, and a lot of people who do still have jobs are afraid to start businesses not because they don’t have great ideas or grand dreams but because they will be without health care coverage.
As a result of my cancer history, the current health care system (or lack thereof!) is not making entrepreneurship and owning a small business easy at all. For people like me with pre-existing conditions, health care reform is the only hope of getting any medical coverage. Whatever the plan will become, I'm certain it won't be perfect and will not fits everyone's situation perfectly, but for those millions and millions of uninsurables, at least we will get to be IN the waiting line. And that, is the beginning of a health care system for everyone, despite their income level, job, gender, ethnicity, or medical history, because we are looking after their well being and not their wallet.
Re-posted by Cynematic from a comment at Queen of Spain's blog, in which she asked her readers to send comments, stories, and questions to Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama's advisors. Ms. Jarrett had made herself available to several women who attended BlogHer '09 to discuss health insurance reform. All comments were forwarded to Ms. Jarrett for her to read as Congress begins the last stretch of writing--and passng--health insurance reform legislation.