Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Closer Look at Health Care Reform

I have spent a good portion of the day watching the last ditch arguments in Congress on the health reform bill that will most likely pass tomorrow afternoon and move on to the Senate.

While there are really no big changes from the last version, there have been revisions that reflect a softening of the language and an attempt to appease certain bases.  I am looking at it only from the view of a cancer survivor and as an advocate for women who have cancer.

One thing I have discovered is very troubling. I hope that this will be fixed when it goes to the Senate, but chances are it won't be.

Here is my concern:

Insurance vouchers or coverage will become available to all Americans. This is not the same as a public plan, but it essentially "gives" coverage to those Americans who do not have it, or who lose their current insurance plan. Right now, this will be in the form of an expanded Medicaid. Anyone who has cancer knows it is hard to find specialists who accept Medicaid patients. There is a great risk that we would receive substandard care. No one has addressed what kind of care Americans will receive with these vouchers. When we are told, "If you like your plan, you will be able to keep it; If you like your doctor,  you will be able to keep him" that is not necessarily true. Here's why:

If you are a single payer, your current insurance carrier can now use a loophole to drop you. If you are a single payer with a serious medical condition, they will find that loophole to drop you as fast as humanly possible.  If your company provides you with health insurance, and they now do not have to do so, you could lose your coverage. So, here you are, with a history of breast cancer, the mother of pre-existing conditions, and no insurance. You can try to find a specialist from the wading pool of Medicaid providers and then try to fight for the kind of chemo, follow-up care and cutting edge treatments that are available to you now but are virtually unknown under Medicaid,  or, you can join another insurance plan.  Right? Yes. In 2014. You see, while they are making it illegal for carriers to deny you coverage if you have a pre-existing condtion, that only takes effect in 2014. With breast cancer, you do not have four years to wait to get Herceptin or get PARP.

When you see that Congressman from Central Casting get up and read a "letter" about Erma-Lou from Podunk who died because she was too poor, what they leave out is that those Americans who have little to no income have Medicaid as their insurance plan. Erma-Lou died because she didn't get proper care under Medicaid... and that is where they want to send us.

What happens to those of us who have life-threatening illnesses? Look up the doctors in your area. Check to see if your oncologist or breast surgeon accepts Medicaid patients and see for yourself. This is one question we need an answer to. This bill will be passed tomorrow. It will then go to the Senate. It is then provisions for US can be added and then the bill would be sent back to the Congress so they can start the process all over again.

This is not Republican or Democrat. This is me, writing to you, my sisters. Our lives are at stake. We need to make sure we are protected, and that those who follow us are protected, too.

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