Monday, September 9, 2013

Thank God for Obamacare (or at least portions of it)


Since September is, after all, Blood Cancer Awareness month, I'll focus on one of the most critical aspects of fighting this disease (or any disease, for that matter): high quality health insurance. Because unless you hit the lottery and win, like, $300 million dollars, you can't afford to pay for these treatments out of pocket. Here's an example that will make your toes curl: one of my medications (Thalomide) retails at $7,500 per months. Yes, per month (that's no typo) and I take it every day. Thanks to my insurance, I pay $40 per month. And if I couldn't afford that medication? Well, too bad. So on to my post for today...

I was once a conservative Republican. Seriously, I worked for the National Rifle Association in Washington, DC for over five years. Enough said. But over the years, I've become far more mainstream and, in some areas (mostly on social issues), quite liberal. While I didn't vote for Obama in this last election, I gotta say that right now I'd like to kiss the ground he walks on. Pieces of Obamacare are being implemented on January 1, 2014 and the changes can't come soon enough. These Republicans who say that we should have a complete repeal of Obamacare deserve to be thrown out of a jet flying over Everest.

Right now, because I am on disability, I am paying for COBRA benefits for my medical insurance. Thank goodness that I had a great job and I could get excellent coverage back when I was working. When the time came, I switched over to COBRA. While it's pricey, I have no complaints, it's worth every penny. But sooner rather than later, I won't be eligible for COBRA anymore. And then what? With a pre-existing medical condition, I'd be uninsurable! And, I might add, for anyone going on Social Security Medicaid, there is a two year gap between the time you get approved for benefits and the benefits actually kicking in. And for those two years, if you have a pre-existing condition? Well, you're out of luck! I suppose the answer would be to renounce US citizenship and hope that another country, like Cuba or India, would take you in and give you free medical coverage.

But as of October 1, open enrollment begins for the 2014 calendar year and guess what? No one can be denied medical coverage! They can't even ask you about pre-existing medical conditions. I can't believe it has taken this long in this great, prosperous, country of ours.

You know what really sucks, though, is that it took me almost an entire day and probably 15 phone calls to various attorneys, government agencies, my former employer and my insurance carrier to figure all this out. The red tape is horrible and thank goodness I have the energy and mental capacity to do all this stuff. Because when I was in the midst of my stem cell transplant, I can't fathom being able to even do that. And so the sickest of the sick probably don't have a lot of energy to navigate anything-- and they're the ones who need help the most. So not cool. Or right.

I don't know that Obamacare is going to be perfect. But something has to be done to begin moving in a better direction when it comes to healthcare in this country. In the USA, we spend more of our GDP on healthcare than any other developed nation-- and we get the least for our dollar. At least Obamacare is a step in the (hopefully) right direction.