I type this on the eve of the fall of Obamacare. President-elect Trump has been slow to outline his replacement plan, and that has many millions of Americans worried. Rightly so. Health insurance is a necessity. My uncle suffered through seven years of prostate cancer, first approaching the disease from a holistic approach, moving to surgery, over to hormone therapy, radically switching to clinical trials, and unfortunately missing his opportunity for chemotherapy and regrettably succumbing to the disease. He was 55. My grandmother is on a fixed income. She is 80-years-old and suffers from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are under control through prescription drugs. A neighbor friend was downsized and lost his job. He is on COBRA, which runs out in two months. He is frantically networking and job searching to secure employment with benefits. All of these people in my life understand the importance of health insurance and how their plans give them more than just affordable healthcare. Health insurance gives them peace of mind, knowing they have a partner in managing their care. They all use their insurance in very different ways. My uncle worked within his plan, gaining approval for each and every approach to dealing with his disease. He had the home phone numbers of many of his doctors and became an expert on prostate cancer and all of the current research. My grandmother, while frugal with her dollars and cents, willingly pays for the best and most health coverage she can obtain, knowing one day she may need help as her body and mind ages. My neighbor has been offered several jobs and turned each of them down, unwilling to settle for a job without benefits. He knows how important health coverage can be for anyone at any time.
Perhaps the best example of the importance of health insurance is described by the battle by one of my very best friends, Katie. She is a junior at the University of Iowa, fittingly studying nursing.
The doctors told her she had Irritable bowel syndrome. No, it’s celiac disease. No, she has appendicitis. No, they think it’s pancreatitis. No, it might be a gall bladder infection. The truth of the matter is, the doctors do not know exactly what is plaguing my friend, who has been in and out of doctors’ offices and hospital off and on for the past year and a half.
She’s lost twenty pounds, is restricted to a no fat, bland diet, gets regular blood draws, suffers through the occasional transfusion and has all too frequent reactions to prescriptions. She has missed days and weeks of school at a time. Yet, she is in good spirits and has every faith that the doctors will not only find what ails her, but cure her as well.
The nurses and doctors are not to blame. They have been supportive, concerned and thorough. They are slowly but surely ruling out issues one by one. But the fact remains, that my friend is ill. With what? We don’t quite know yet.
She’s seen countless specialists, visited two emergency rooms and had week-long stays at three hospitals. She’s been poked, prodded, injected and scanned. She has amassed tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Thankfully, her parents have medical insurance. Her case has been flagged as catastrophic so gratefully there will be some monetary relief, however, until they find the cause of her problems, there is little emotional relief. Without health insurance, I shudder to think what would or could happen. Katie has gone through anaphylactic shock, vomited blood, fainted, suffered seizures, and had a feeding tube. All the while, her health insurance has afforded her the best doctors and specialists in excellent hospitals. She’s had the assurance of quality care from a network of professionals able and willing to look after her.
I do not know what health insurance provider Katie and her parents have. Honestly, in my mind, it doesn’t matter. What they have, beyond a contract to safeguard against health care costs, is peace of mind and an assurance that they can and will weather this illness and its financial ramifications. Health insurance is a necessity for both medical care and financial well-being.
As millions of Americans await health care reform and replacement, they should rest easy knowing they each have an option for a partner in their care. That partner may not be perfect or all-encompassing, but a partner nonetheless. My brother, my grandmother, my neighbor, my friend Katie and I all certainly owe a debt of gratitude to health insurance. While the insurance alone cannot cure cancer, fix high blood pressure, remedy unemployment or answer a medical mystery, it does provide peace of mind and help the sick battle whatever happens to ail them, physically, financially and emotionally.
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