Healthcare After Breast Cancer

“‎Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

One thing that my journey with breast cancer taught me about was healthcare. I’ve become all too familiar with the broken US healthcare system. After working continuously my entire young adult life, I was terminated from my marketing position at DFW International Airport while I recovered from a mastectomy. I was forced into expensive COBRA health coverage to maintain the same level of care I had already started. I feared losing my health insurance. Fortunately, I was able to maintain COBRA health insurance until my benefits expired after 18 months, just as I prepared for an unexpected surgery to fight an infection developed from a previous breast cancer surgery.

When COBRA expired, I assumed I would be able to transfer to a costly individual plan. Little did I know. No health insurance provider would accept me with a pre-existing condition such as breast cancer. I wasn’t left with any other options, in part because I was self-employed. Once again, I was forced to become my own health and patient advocate. I learned that, even while the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka Obamacare) has been passed and upheld earlier in the year, it didn’t cover me fully until 2014. Wow, I would have to wait nearly two years to regain my right to healthcare. I reached out to other breast cancer survivors via Twitter and learned that so many others have been waiting even longer. Fortunately, I also learned about a temporary solution:

Until the ACA is fully implemented in 2014, a program called the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was available to people with pre-existing conditions. PCIP, which is run by either states or the Federal government, provides a new health coverage option for people who have been without health coverage for at least 6 months and have a pre-existing condition or have been denied health coverage because of their health condition.

I applied for PCIP on the day that my COBRA health benefits ended. However, my application was denied as I had to go uninsured for 6 months. And left with no other option, that’s exactly what I did. I waited, held my breath, kept my fingers crossed and prayed that I wouldn’t get sick before then. I worked with my physicians and health providers to get my quarterly cancer check-ups without health insurance. And I waited.

Then on the first day I was eligible, New Years Day, I applied for PCIP online. I completed my application as I counted down to midnight on New Years Eve. And then I waited. Three weeks later, I received a letter from the program. I can’t think of a better day – MLK Day and also the day of Obama’s second inauguration – to receive approval of PCIP health coverage. My PCIP health coverage will go into effective on February 1.

I personally thank everyone who supported the Affordable Care Act.

PCIP

 

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