Cancer Survivors’ Message to Republicans: “We Literally Live and Die by Insurance”

by Joan McCarter
Friday, February 24, 2017
Nearly 1 in 4 Americans has a pre-existing health condition —
that’s 52 million people under the age of 65.
It’s 52 million people who for the past three years
had the peace of mind
of knowing that they could not be denied health insurance.
Among them are more than 15 million who are cancer patients or survivors,
who are at the forefront of people 
speaking out against Republican efforts to repeal the law.

They are calling Congressional offices and showing up

at their Representatives’ town hall meetings

with angst-filled stories about a pre-ACA world

in which they couldn’t get individual health plans

because of their medical histories.

The fate of patient protections

in the fight over the health-care law looms especially large

for the cancer community

because of the disease’s prevalence

and the enormous cost of treatment.

More than 15 million people in the United States

are patients or survivors,

with millions more affected as family members.

And although new therapies offer much promise,

the disease remains the second-leading cause of death in this country.

When The Washington Post recently asked readers
how they may be affected by changes in health-care policy,
a striking number said they or family members were fighting cancer
and outlined an array of concerns.
“People are scared out of their minds,”
said 34-year-old Erin Price Schabert,
who seven years ago was treated for breast cancer.
She frets whether that history would make her “uninsurable”
in the individual market if she were to leave her job.
Ashley Walton, a 32-year-old Oakland resident,
is another one of those survivors who says she’s alive now because of the ACA.
“I would likely be dead,
and my family would likely be bankrupt from trying to save me,” she said.
“For cancer survivors, we literally live and die by insurance.”
Under Republican policies outlined so far,
insurers can charge whatever they want to people with pre-existing conditions
if they had a gap in their insurance.
Changing policies is an extremely common thing
because people’s life circumstances change regularly …
a new job, marriage, divorce, moving states.
All those things can force a change in insurance and a potential gap in coverage.
That wasn’t a worry for people under the ACA, but it is now.

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