As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
Mixing cancer and bipolar illness is not a winning cocktail in the long-term health care industry.
Since my adult health hasn't been great (a bipolar diagnosis in 1991, a breast cancer diagnosis in 2011 and a secondary cancer diagnosis in 2016), my husband is beginning to think I might need long-term health care in the future. Two of my friends who are under 60 are already in long-term health care facilities — one is in assisted living because she has Parkinson's and can't take care of herself; another is in a nursing home because of obesity; this friend is confined to a bed. Since my husband is practical, while he's looking into long-term health care insurance for me, he's also investigating it for himself.
We try to get a quote for both of us through an organization to which my husband belongs. We have to fill out massive health information questionnaires. They want to know about every hospitalization I've had, every medication I take and every surgery I've endured (among other things). My husband's questionnaire is practically blank; he's in fabulous health. Mine is another story. We submit the information and wait about a month to hear back.
This whole long-term health care idea is so strange to me. At 56, it seems odd to be a senior. It seems like a couple days ago that some boy was giving me my first kiss on the playground while I held my poncho up over both of our heads so no one could spy on us. Life is indeed short. Soon, God willing, I'll be in my 60s and then my 70s and then 80s; perhaps, I'll live even longer. I hope to be able to care for myself during these decades, but it would be nice to know that if I can't, we have a little insurance that would help us out.
We finally hear from the insurance folks. Steve "passes" with flying colors and is given a quote. I am rejected. Why? I'm sure it's because of the recent cancer diagnoses.
But no. The long-term health care company has rejected me because I take a "deal-breaker," anti-mania, psychotropic drug (which shall remain nameless.)
Now what should we do?
Could I substitute another drug for the one I was taking? My husband didn't like this idea because I've been stable since I've been on it. He wouldn't hear of me changing meds.
I call the insurance company back and ask them why this med is such a deal-breaker for people trying to obtain long-term health care insurance. The insurance person tells me "I don't know." Wow, what a helpful answer. Then, I try to bargain with her. I ask her if there's any way I can appeal the decision. "No," she says. "The fact that you take this drug rules out our covering you."
For once, it's not cancer that's standing in my way.
About six months later, we're getting our wills redone and we happen to present our dilemma to our lawyer. She happens to have a good friend who's in insurance who might know how we can get long term insurance while I'm medicated on this drug (which will most likely be the rest of my life).
We go see this insurance guy who tells us he might be able to help us. He fills out more health care questionnaires and submits them. A week later, we have more results. "Your husband sailed through, and they've given him a quote. You, on the other hand, were rejected because of the combination of the psychotropic drug you're on and the recent cancer you've endured,” the man said. “But there's good news. They said to contact them in two years, when you're five years out from your last bout of cancer. At that time, they said you will have a good chance of getting coverage."
Now I've got another reason to wish away more cancer occurrences. My five-year post-cancer anniversary can't come soon enough. Illness certainly complicates all aspects of life.
Here's to good health and to, dare I say, living to be 100?