If the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed, Alex worries that other people with a similar diagnosis will die.
It had never occurred to Alex Weberman that he could be diagnosed with cancer. After all, he was just one week shy of his 23rd birthday and was focused on pursuing his dreams. He had just finished college and was preparing to go to Chile to teach English to underprivileged children. But when he began bleeding heavily he had to call 911 and was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
It was there that he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune system. The doctors said he needed to start treatment right away if it was going to be successful. Fortunately, because the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, allows parents to keep their children on their insurance plan until age 26, Alex had insurance.
“When you have an aggressive form of cancer like this, tomorrow is too late,” says his father, Ed Weberman. “They wanted to start treatment right away, so waiting a month is a death sentence.”
Because Alex already had insurance, they didn’t have to “jump through hoops” to get him covered, Ed says. After six rounds of chemotherapy, bone marrow biopsies and a battery of tests, Alex was declared cancer-free about a year and a half ago. He’ll need periodic check-ups for the rest of his life to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.
So far, his medical bills have totaled $400,000. The cost to his parents has been $175, in addition to the roughly $600 per month they pay in insurance premiums through Ed’s wife’s job. If Alex had been kicked off his parents’ insurance at age 21, which was the case before the ACA, his story might have been very different, Alex says.
At my age, how can anyone be expected to pay those kinds of medical bills? I survived cancer because of Obamacare. If I hadn’t been on my parents’ insurance, I would have died.
Ed says some people argue that Alex was really saved by his medical team, and he does not discount the great work they did. But it’s more than that, he explains.
The first thing they ask is what insurance you have. Without insurance, Alex would not have had care. The doctors did a marvelous job, but medicine is a business. My son would not have been able to get the treatments he received but for the fact that he was covered under my wife’s policy.
Going forward, if any part of the ACA is repealed — as Congressional Republicans and President-elect Trump are threatening — Alex could face some significant challenges getting the insurance and care he needs.
First, he now has a pre-existing condition. The ACA forbids insurance companies from discriminating against people on that basis. Second, there’s the issue of lifetime caps. In the past, insurance policies could refuse to pay for any more care once you hit a pre-set limit, or cap.
“In less than 12 months, Alex incurred $400,000 in medical bills,” Ed says. “If there’s a million-dollar cap, what does he do years from now?”
Alex admits he’s worried about these protections going away, too. “What happens if I have to apply for insurance and I don’t have legislative protection, and I put down that I went through all this treatment?” he asks. “The insurance agent will look at how much it cost me by the time I was 24. It’s not going to look good for me. I’ll be denied or my premiums will be so expensive.”
Ed remembers what it was like when he had to buy insurance on his own for himself, his wife and their four sons. He doesn’t want any of them to have to go back to those days, including the two adult sons who are entrepreneurs and rely the ACA for coverage they can afford.
I don’t think most people really understand how the law all works together. When our President-elect says he’s going to keep some provisions, like kids staying on their parents’ plans, how are you going to keep that when it’s supported by the fact that healthy people have to carry insurance, too?
I get really troubled when people call this an ‘entitlement.’ It’s not. It’s what’s required to be humans and civilized people. We support each other. We contribute to the cost of our coverage, and healthcare is not a luxury.
Alex adds that this is a moral issue — and taking the ability to buy insurance away from millions of people is immoral. He has a message for elected officials in Washington, D.C. who want to repeal Obamacare.
Think about all the people out there who are going to lose insurance because of what you’re doing. Think about the person diagnosed with this disease who won’t be able to pay for their chemotherapy. They’re going to die. That’s what cancer does: It kills you.
Contact your Representative in the U.S. Congress HERE and your U.S. Senator HERE. Urge them to vote against repealing the ACA unless a replacement plan with the same level of coverage and consumer protections is enacted at the same time.
Meanwhile open enrollment for 2017 coverage continues through January 31. Get covered today at HealthCare.gov.
Has Obamacare helped you or someone in your family? Tell us about it HERE if you’d like to be considered for a future post.
[Photo courtesy of the Weberman’s.]