Monday, July 2, 2012

A victory for cancer survivors

Many years ago I had a conversation with one of my patients about her career. Actually, It was about not leaving her job. She had Hodgkin disease, which was in remission; she was feeling terrific and thinking about starting a new career. But, I said, you will never get health insurance and you need it. So she stayed at her bank for several years in a boring but protected position. Unfortunately, her Hodgkin disease did come back and eventually killed her. Today with the “Obamacare” health law mostly intact, she could leave her job and get health insurance on her own at a fair price. Thirty years ago it would have been unaffordable. There are nearly 12 million people living today who have or have had cancer. Most of these people have some sort of health insurance. Because cancer is a disease of the aged, many of them are covered by Medicare, like myself. Medicare insures everyone. The government never asks about preexisting conditions. Get to age 65 and you are in! But, before this week, if you were working for a company where your cancer care was covered by insurance and wanted to leave to start your own company, you would be making a huge sacrifice. No insurance company would have taken you before the initiation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Now they can’t refuse you and have to charge you the same amount as anyone in your age bracket. I can’t blame insurance companies for their past behavior. They need to make a profit and can’t if the only people who sign up have had some serious illness. They need a pool of healthy people without prior illnesses to help their bottom line. Of course some of these healthy people will need big time medical care and it is better that the insurance companies cover them rather than us through a state program. And perhaps now people like cancer survivors, will be freer to develop new businesses and boost our flagging economy. Yeah!

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