Two years ago on this day I was five months into a treatment plan for Stage II Breast Cancer. I had undergone two surgeries, and two months of chemotherapy were already in my rear-view mirror, but 12 more weeks of chemo plus 5 weeks of radiation lay ahead of me. I was diagnosed in January 2016 just a few weeks after my husband had been laid off from his job. We had health insurance, but because it was through the employer-sponsored COBRA program, we were paying back-breaking monthly premium costs. When that program ran out, we then had to buy private insurance and it was almost as costly.
As we get to this National Cancer Survivors Day I am so grateful to be alive and that the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are still intact today. I had not one, but three tumors and one tumor was of the more aggressive forms of breast cancer-the Triple Negative type. Triple Negative Breast Cancer has a high rate of recurrence and a higher mortality rate than other breast cancers. That shadow is never very far behind me. It doesn’t help that theRepublicans in Washington had done nothing for the last 14 months but play politics and try to destroy the protections in the ACA that effect the millions of Cancer Survivors and 1-in-8 American women who have gotten breast cancer like me.
The ACA has critical provisions that protect people facing a catastrophic medical situation: caps on annual out of pocket expenses and lifetime policy limits and the biggest protection of all-a prohibition against insurers charging exorbitant costs or kicking you off your insurance for a having a pre-existing condition. According to a recent study by the US Department of Health and Human Services, almost one-half of non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing condition and according to the same study, that number goes as high as 84% in the age group of 55-64 year olds. That group is often reliant on buying insurance on the exchanges or private market when you no longer have access to employer-sponsored insurance and are not yet Medicare eligible. But make no mistake about it-GOP efforts to weaken and sabotage the ACA will have devastating effects on both Medicare and Medicaid-especially for those with pre-existing conditions.
I am lucky to have access to a wonderful cancer-rehab program at one of our local facilities-St.Mary’s Hospital. We meet weekly and it’s more than just exercise-it is also fellowship and support from this wonderful group of Cancer Survivors. These women are the bravest people I know. And not everyone makes it to “the other side” as we survivors like to call it-that blessed place where treatment is over (for now) and you are on the road to recovery. The protections in the ACA provide Cancer Survivors assurance that affordable access to the healthcare will be there when they travel down this often-dark path to recovery and hope. For people fighting for their lives in the face of such adversity it is heartbreaking that two of our Congressional representatives, Dean Heller and Mark Amodei found it acceptable after much hemming and hawing to vote along GOP party lines for legislation to sabotage the ACA. Neither one stood up
for Cancer Survivors like me nor other Nevadans I have had the privilege to meet along my cancer journey. Beyond that moment when you first get that devastating phone call that changes your life forever-the knowledge of those awful votes is the biggest heartbreak of all on this National Cancer Survivors Day.