Affordable Care Act, Obamacare — June 9, 2014 at 11:49 am

Cancer patient: ‘If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I’d be dead in 12 months’


Getting health insurance turns one woman’s diagnosis from terminal to hopeful.

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough. The only thing that’s worse? Knowing you don’t have insurance and can’t possibly afford to pay for treatment.

Marion N. Seidel has been uninsured since she changed jobs seven years ago. She’s worked the same job ever since, but could never afford her share of the coverage her employer offered: $600/month for herself and her daughter. On the rare occasions they got sick, the 52-year-old single mother would just pay cash for doctor’s appointments.

But over the last year, Seidel started having some health issues that kept sending her to the doctor. Every time she missed a day of work, she lost a day’s pay.

She started shopping for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), but ran into some glitches with enrollment. Frustrated, she gave up and instead launched a crowdfunding website where friends could chip in to help her pay for doctor’s appointments and tests.

In April 2014, Seidel was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her tonsils that was already affecting her lymph glands. She needed to start treatment right away. Without it, the doctors told her, she had only 12 months to live.

I went everywhere to try to find help, but I kept being told, ‘If you can’t pay we can’t help you.’ I went to hospitals pleading for help. Because Florida did not expand Medicaid, I could not get any help from the state where I live. I could feel the tumor growing and I felt more lumps in my neck. I was really scared the cancer was growing fast because it was detected too late.

By this point, Seidel was too sick to go to work at all. But then she learned she could enroll for coverage through outside the open enrollment period, because her income had changed and she’d had problems signing up before. She reached a customer service rep who was able to sort out her previous issues — and two hours later, she was enrolled.

Seidel now has comprehensive coverage with low deductibles and co-payments. With the help of tax subsidies, she’s paying just $95/month for her insurance — coverage she might not have been able to get at all, at any price, before the ACA because of her pre-existing condition.

She’s since been to a specialist who is starting treatment right away. Simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation, and possible surgery, will keep Seidel away from work a while longer, but with help from donations to her fundraising site, she can pay her premiums, keep a roof over her head and get the necessary treatment.

The specialist told me I have a very high chance of being cured. They told me I’ll go through hell in the next few months but I will come back. That gave me more positivity and I feel I can beat this cancer.

Without my insurance, I would not have been able to even see the specialist. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I’d be dead in 12 months.

Now Seidel has hope that she’ll see her 18-year-old daughter — who graduated high school with honors — flourish in adulthood.

I had horrible visions of myself dying in one of the richest countries in the world because I couldn’t afford insurance or pay cash. Obamacare isn’t perfect but it’s a step in the right direction for people like me who work for a living, have never needed government help, but don’t earn enough to pay the price of health insurance.

You raise your child the right way, you are a productive member of society, and then something like this happens and your life is worth only the dollar amount you can pay.

Healthcare should not be a privilege. It should be a human right.

[Photo courtesy of Marion N. Seidel]