Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
~ U2

Following up on a comment Cancer Curmudgeon made on my post last week, I want to be clear: I am in no way suggesting civility = roll over and die. I do believe some methods are more effective than others but that’s purely a matter for the individual to decide.

One fight that’s near and dear to me and to lots of my fellow bloggers is access to health care.

I get my health insurance through my husband’s employer, for which I am quite grateful. My cancer diagnosis coincided with the Great Recession and along with all the other reasons I had to be scared, the possibility that he might lose his job definitely qualified for the “stare at the bedroom ceiling at 3 AM” list.

I knew I was virtually uninsurable and that cancer treatments would financially ruin us. My chemotherapy treatments cost around $17,000 each, radiation was $500 per zap, I don’t even remember what my two operations cost.

Heck, even with insurance it’s expensive. Our annual out of pocket maximum is almost $10,000. Here’s the thing – I’m incredibly grateful for what I have. Not only has my family been able to access top-notch care, but I have never had to choose between health care and life’s other necessities like food.

Still, I breathed a sigh of relief in 2010 when the ACA passed and I knew my worst-case scenario of ruinous uninsurability was eliminated.

A short sigh.

Now we’ve got talk of repealing the ACA and reintroducing high risk pools. If you think that sounds like a good idea, please read this article from the Kaiser Family Foundation about pre-ACA high risk pools.

For starters, my state didn’t even have one. The offerings of those that did often came with premiums as high as 200% of the market rate, capped lifetime coverage at $1 million, and excluded pre-existing condition coverage for as long as 12 months.

Better than nothing?


I suspect that in the deep, dusty recesses of our collective mind, there lies a thought that maybe I should pay more because I didn’t always behave responsibly. Sure, I may have engaged in some behaviors that increased my risk for developing cancer during my misspent youth.

Here’s the thing though – you probably did too. Why one person develops cancer and another doesn’t is, as of today, unknown. So the next time you hear someone has lung cancer rather than asking if she smoked, get down on your hands and knees and thank whomever you thank that it wasn’t you.

Not convinced? Look at my kids. They both have Celiac Disease, as we discovered earlier this year. It’s a serious and not well understood auto immune disorder that has no cure. There’s a genetic component to it but some people carry the mutation without developing the disease for reasons also unknown. When a person with Celiac eats gluten (a structural protein found in wheat, rye, and barley), part of the immune system kicks into overdrive and attacks the small intestine. The small intestine stops functioning normally, interfering with the absorption of nutrients like iron. It’s a permanent, life-long disorder and the only treatment is to never ingest gluten.

In other words, a pre-existing condition.

Still don’t care? Take 15 minutes to watch this incredibly moving monologue from Jimmy Kimmel. Stick with it through the end. Bravo to Kimmel for putting this out there.

Remember — when we speak in esoteric terms of freedom and the supremacy of the individual, real people on the ground are suffering. You’ll never make this country great by reserving health care only for those who can afford it.

2 thoughts on “Pre-Existing”

  1. Thanks Katie!
    I knew you did not mean “roll over and die”. I love the Kimmel clip, but another viral clip today was that MoC that talked about clean living people who are healthy should not have to pay for sick people. It brought up for me–for the millionth time–that people blame cancer patients for getting cancer–or most people for getting any illness. Exceptions for kids born with stuff–SOMETIMES.
    So often these days as I’ve become immersed in politics, I see people say things like, why should I have to pay for anyone else’s healthcare? I want to demand of them how they have insurance, if it is from their employer, all kinds of things. There is so much ignorance out there about how insurance even works. about the costs of care. Your last post about civility brought up dark thoughts in me. I’ve had a lot of anger and bitterness since Nov, I’ve wished ill toward others. I am still grappling with it, and will hopefully sometime, write a post about it. One of the reasons I HAVE NOT written lately is because of this darkness. But I always feel better when I get it out there, so, maybe, soon. That was all I meant by my comment last week. xo Wendi

    1. Howdy. I totally get the dark thoughts. And I am constantly flabbergasted by how selfish people are. If I have to pay an extra couple hundred bucks in taxes so people can have health care, no problem! And yes, the idea of blaming people is downright evil in my opinion. We’ll never get anywhere as a society as long as we continue to believe that people are in charge of their health destinies.


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