Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Heck yes we need national healthcare. And here's why! (my story)

No one should ever hear these words and for one second have it be believable: "I'm going to cancel your health insurance or else!"

But those are the exact words I heard from my dear husband in the midst of my cancer diagnosis. In case you missed it, here's just one email out of many texts, emails and voicemails I got from Rob the Great (Alcoholic) threatening just that:
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From: Rob
Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 14:24:07
To: lizzysmilez
Subject: Re: Re:

State disability and your health insurance are at risk. Deposit disability checks in the joint account and use that account for all expenses. I require income in the past and a balance sheet.  If you can't do that, I don't control the outcome. It's your decision to be difficult. Have a happy day.

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Yep, I was diagnosed on January 9, 2012, so this was just a few days after my cancer diagnosis! Geez, thanks asshole. May you rot in hell.

As disgusting as that sounds, what's really pathetic is that he could have done it (which is why I quickly filed for a legal separation, which legally prevented him from doing so). We had decided several months prior that he would cover the family on his employer's health plan and, sure enough, he could cancel me just like that. And where would I be? Uninsurable. Untreatable. And marching to a sure death without life saving treatment that I desperately needed.

The morality of Rob making such a threat is pretty much not even debatable. Yep, it's disgusting, hateful and disturbing. (But that's Rob for ya-- alcoholics are universally manipulative, controlling, abusive, liars and bullies.) What truly is disturbing is that in this great country we live in, that we are debating the need for national healthcare. Here I was, a tax paying citizen with a college degree and a high paying job, and yet I could easily fall through the cracks.

I've had this discussion with family members and (mostly) friends who are staunch conservative Republicans (or just lucky US citizens) who tell me that no one in this country can be denied healthcare. Heck, all one has to do is walk into an ER and they treat you, insurance or no. Well, that's true and it works if, say, you're in the middle of cardiac arrest, have a cold, or lost a leg in a car accident. But hate to tell you, if you have, hmmm, something like cancer, you don't go to an ER to get diagnosed or treated. You can't walk into an ER and ask for a treatment schedule. You can't walk into an ER and say, "Hey, I'm here for my chemo appointment." And you can't walk into an ER and say, "Yeah, I'd like an MRI to see if my cancer has spread." Sorry, doesn't work that way.

When I left my alcoholic and abusive husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic), I had Kaiser, which is pretty much like driving a 2001 Honda Civic. It mostly works but if you can have a chauffer-driven Bentley, the choice would be an easy one. It's more effective, trustworthy, and "pleasant" (if you can call anything "pleasant" when it has to do with cancer). And, trust me, when you have cancer and you have doctor appointments as often as you go to the bathroom, you want (need!!) the chauffer driven Bentley! In Salt Lake City, just 35 minutes from where I was moving (fleeing to, actually), was the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute and Hospital. And, as luck would have it, they had a Multiple Myeloma-specific clinic and was one of the two leading research hospitals in the United States and tops in the world. I desperately wanted them to see me.

My mom got busy, making dozens of calls. But, no surprise, they didn't accept Kaiser insurance. To see me, I'd either have to have insurance first (and they pre-verified) or I needed to pay half of the initial testing and first appointment. That 50% was $16,500. And that was the cheap and easy part.

Desperation and panic set in. Rob, of course, was of no help. He refused to switch insurance carriers, even though he could. Further, he kept threatening to cancel my health insurance. He also threatened to call the State of California and try to have my disability benefits cancelled, too. Because that's what really great guys do to someone who is just diagnosed with cancer. Especially when there is no one looking. (Rob is a great guy, in all honesty: kind, helpful, resourceful... if there is an audience only. No audience and, well, he's just a liar, alcoholic, bully, lazy, mean and evil with a super high pitched wailing screeching scream that truly one cannot fathom unless you've had the luck to hear it yourself.)

Thank God that my moving from San Diego to Utah qualified with my employer as a change that enabled me to enroll in my own health insurance. And after dozens of phone calls, I had health insurance that Huntsman accepted and I was accepted as a patient. Now my sincere wish and prayer is that no one ever need to step foot inside any oncology center ever. But if you do, I wish everyone could be treated at Huntsman. It is a level of service I have never seen anywhere except maybe at the Ritz in Washington, DC. It's beautiful, has free valet parking, lots of natural sunlight, sits at the foot of the beautiful Wasatch mountains, and every single person working there has a halo over their head. They are my angels and I truly love them. I know I'm in good hands and as long as they keep treating me, MM will not claim my life.

No one in this country should ever be in my shoes with health insurance. I was lucky that I was able to secure insurance. But millions of American aren't and that is as immoral and wrong as Bob was in threatening me.

And that's why I believe in a national healthcare system. Luck should never have a part of whether or not one can access healthcare or medicines. Ever. Never. Ever.