I’m one of 323 million Americans. Many of you have similar stories. Some, far, far worse.
This is my story.
Fifteen years ago this week, I found a lump growing out of my neck near my collarbone. After a biopsy, I was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin’s Disease… a cancer of the lymph system. Turns out that lump was the tip of a tumor the size of a banana that was wrapped around my aorta, and I had five smaller tumors scattered around inside my chest to keep it company. Hodgkin’s is generally pretty easy to beat, but my particular strain required heavier than normal doses of chemotherapy and radiation. As my oncologist said at the time; “We’re gonna beat this, but instead of centiliter doses we’re going to use buckets.” But in the end, I’m happy to say we beat it. And my healthcare insurance, Blue Cross/Blue Shield stood by me all the way.
The treatments I was given don’t come without a penalty. Very few cancer survivors return to their pre-cancer lives exactly as they were before. There’s usually some residual reminder of your battles. In my case, I was warned that my chemo treatments might result in a loss of smell and taste, damage to the heart, and the extensive doses of radiation might result in lung damage. Boom, boom, boom, I hit the trifecta. But again; when you’re told the only alternative is a dirt nap, you do what has to be done.
Flash forward to the economic crash of late 2008. My once generous healthcare carrier, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, called me on the phone and told me that I’d have to choose a different plan, as my old one is going away. When I asked her why, this is what she told me (and these are her exact words) “It has something to do with 9/11, but I’m not exactly sure what. All I know is that everyone’s premiums are either going up or going away, and yours is one that’s being eliminated.” I will never forget that conversation, and I’ll never forget my response. “What the hell does my healthcare have to do with a terrorist attack that happened seven years ago?” Her reply: “Don’t ask me. That’s what we were told. I’m just the messenger.”
Well, I was asking her, not that it did any good. Sure enough, they cancelled my policy and assigned me with a new one. One that cost nearly twice as much, had higher deductibles and worse coverage. I’ll never know for sure, but I suspect someone in an ivory tower somewhere wanted to recoup some of the money they spent on keeping me vertical back in 2002-‘03. So I dropped Blue Cross and went with someone else. Still no bargain, but better than Blue Cross.
This all happened while my little podunk coffee business was taking a hit due to the recession. I lost 60% of my customer base that year, as my healthcare insurance continued to rise. When it neared $850.00 per month (just for me) for minimal coverage, at a time when I was barely breaking even in my business, I had no choice: it was time to roll the dice and go with a higher deductible, less costly policy.
That’s when the ghost of chemotherapy dropped in for a visit. The “potential” heart attack hit both me and my bank account like a bolt out of the blue. And then it was crunch time.
I’m blessed by many friends in social media who came to my aid in the form of a Go Fund Me page. They eased my financial burden immensely. But I still had to deal with the problem of minimal income vs maximum outgo.
And that’s when ObamaCare came into being. Was it perfect? No, but what is? But what it was for me and for millions of others like me, was nothing short of a miracle. The subsidies allowed me to purchase a plan that covered my unique needs, didn’t penalize me for my now two pre-existing conditions; cancer and heart disease, and didn’t condemn me to a diet of ramen and Alpo. It was FABULOUS. And when my business recovered, the ACA adjusted along with my income. When I made more, I paid more. When I made less, I paid less. But my healthcare needs were never compromised due to my health history.
I turned 65 years old early this year, so I’m on Medicare now. The Affordable Care Act is no longer a part of my life. But as of today; Friday, October 13th 2017, Donald Trump is seeing to it that it’ll never again be a part of anyone’s life, no matter your age, health status or personal needs. His dedication to demolish the ACA is nothing short of a manic obsession of a madman. And the U.S. Congress lacks the courage to stop him.
ObamaCare was my salvation. Donald Trump will continue to try to eradicate the legacy of Barack Obama in his quest for revenge for the White House Correspondent’s Dinner roast of 2011. But he can never eradicate the stories of lives saved by the Affordable Care Act. Nor will he erase the legacy of Barack Obama himself. A kind, caring man, a compassionate man who put the lives of the needy on the same tier as the lives of the über-rich. And I will forever be in Barack Obama’s debt, both for his 8 years of wise, steady leadership and for rescuing me from bankruptcy. And quite possibly, an early grave.