There are over 10,000 children diagnosed with cancer ever year. In 2004, 64,800 young adults, 15 to 39 years old, were diagnosed with cancer.
You know these people and you know me. I’m the Mom you see at daycare drop off or at the PTA meeting. The kid you know from church on Sunday. I’m the woman that works with you or your son’s soccer coach. I am just like everyone else. I am also a breast cancer survivor diagnosed at age 38. I had no family history. I had only had one mammogram, because I was 38.
I had lots of treatments. Two surgeries, 12 rounds of chemotherapy, 35 doses of radiation, physical therapy and more vials of blood than I care to remember. I have health insurance and I believe that I am alive because of it.
Like many of you I have been watching the coverage of the Presidential candidates. While I pay close attention to the health care proposals because of what I’ve gone through, I know they resonate just as strongly with others as well. If you’re diabetic or have lupus, MS or asthma I know, or at least hope you’re listening.
I am fortunate to be insured through my workplace. I don’t personally write a check for my coverage but I was interested in what a $5,000 tax credit would buy. I had heard the horror stories but never checked it out for myself. I called some insurance companies today to get an estimate of what it would cost me to purchase individual health insurance.
Of four companies, three would treat the breast cancer as a pre-existing condition. No coverage for any services related to the breast cancer. No coverage for follow up appointments, annual PET scans ($3,000), no Femara ($381 per month for 5 years).
I found one company that offers a guarantee issue insurance. The rates? The least expensive plan that would cover me with a $5,000 deductible and a 50% copay would cost $1,400 per month. That’s the bargain plan. The high end coverage with a $250 deductible and 100% copay would cost just over $4,000 per month. I expect to live a long time and rates will increase as I age.
One plan is selling a $5,000 refundable tax credit. But that would not touch the price of insurance and here is the really terrifying part. If I were out shopping in the market for health insurance at 38 years old and healthy, I wouldn’t look for a policy with good cancer coverage. Cheap prescriptions maybe or maternity coverage but not cancer. Cancer doesn’t happen to us. I’d be looking for a rate I could pay for and still pay off student loans and make car payments. The only reason I have good coverage is because it is through my employer and is designed to cover everyone, young and old, healthy and the not so healthy.
If this is something that is important to you or to someone you love, I urge you to take the time to understand the plans that are being proposed. It is more complex than a sound bite or a slogan can address. It may well be a matter of life or death.
(If you want the names of the insurance companies referenced e-mail me at email@example.com)