Without the Affordable Care Act, she would not have been able to get the surgery needed to treat her skin cancer.
It’s frightening enough to be diagnosed with cancer, so imagine losing your health insurance just one month later. That’s what happened to Wendy back in 2011, when she was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer.
Wendy spent the next year trying to find someone to insure her so she could get the surgery necessary to treat her cancer — surgery she had already scheduled, but had to cancel when she lost her health insurance because her employer switched her from full-time to part-time.
At the time, before all the consumer protection provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) fully kicked in, insurance companies could deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition, including cancer, so Wendy could not find anyone to offer her a private insurance plan. Because she and her husband were struggling financially while he looked for a job, Wendy turned to California’s Medicaid program. But Medi-Cal would only cover their two children — not Wendy or her husband — because they owned two cars.
“They said that was too much in assets to qualify, but we weren’t willing to sell our car,” Wendy says. “What if we found work?”
She spent six months trying to apply to the county’s Medically Indigent Services Program, only to be denied coverage, and was turned away by other programs that required her to have insurance to get assistance. Wendy even turned to their rabbi to find resources, to no avail.
Finally, Wendy’s mother told her about the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), which was created under the ACA, or Obamacare. It was a bridge program for people with pre-existing conditions, offering them coverage until 2014, when the provision of the ACA prohibiting discrimination based on pre-existing conditions went into effect.
Wendy found coverage for herself for $350 a month (they still couldn’t afford coverage for her husband) and re-scheduled her surgery. The procedure was successful and Wendy has been cancer-free since 2012.
When PCIP ended, Wendy and her husband, who has diabetes, both found coverage through California’s state-based ACA insurance marketplace for a while. But although Wendy works as a college chemistry teacher, it’s a part-time job and their family still faces some financial challenges. Because of that, they are all currently covered under Medi-Cal.
“Things like having two cars aren’t a factor now,” Wendy says of the state’s Medicaid program, which changed its requirements as part of Medicaid expansion under the ACA.
But Wendy says there’s a lot of stress in her household, wondering what will become of the ACA and Medicaid expansion in under the Trump administration.
I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody, but it’s terrifying without health insurance. And having diabetes without health insurance is just terrible.
Now we’re terrified we’ll lose our insurance again under the new administration come January.
Are you worried about losing coverage if Congress repeals all or part of the ACA? Tell us your story HERE if you’d like to be considered for a future post.
Open enrollment for 2017 insurance continues through January 31, 2017. You must enroll by December 15, 2016, for coverage to begin January 1, 2017. Get covered today at HealthCare.gov.