No Insurance. No Cancer Treatment.

20 days without treatment of metastatic cancer is no way to run a nation's health care.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I may have metastatic breast cancer, but I have had insurance since day one, and it hasn’t lapsed or required excessive contact with the insurance company or caused unconscionable stress in my life.

As a middle-class citizen living in what is arguably the wealthiest country in the world, it is difficult (well, impossible, really) for me to understand how what I have experienced in terms of care is not necessarily the norm.

I believe that health care is something that should unite all Americans. It should not be used as a political wedge, creating an “us-versus-them” crisis. If Americans are not happy with something, we work together to improve it.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act being legislated, patients with pre-existing conditions such as metastatic cancer could be denied coverage or have their lifetime coverage capped. To someone in this situation, this isn’t just a rhetorical situation.

It’s real.

Yesterday I ran into an old friend of mine in the grocery store. Our oldest daughters had attended preschool (and high school) together and now they are both sophomores in college. She also has metastatic cancer.

A blood test had shown that there was a possibility that cancer cells were making some sort of comeback and her oncologist had put her back in active treatment in the fall of last year. Around the same time, her husband lost his job. Luckily the severance package he received included insurance coverage through the end of 2016. So, treatment for my friend continued on schedule.

Then 2017 arrived, without insurance but with a new job for her husband, one with insurance. Good news, but there was a catch: Would the job’s insurance cover his wife’s treatment? That unconscionable stress kicked in—would an insurance company be making the decisions on her treatment?

Good news came quickly, her care would be covered, but they had to wait for approval for the second drug in her two-drug therapy. Yesterday she’d been without chemotherapy treatment for 20 days.

Today, after receiving approval, she is back in treatment.

This is something cancer patients are right to fear.

When my friends and family who believe the ACA (Obamacare) should be repealed state their opinion, I often wonder if they think about what they’re saying and to whom they are saying it. Do they not understand that without the safeguards imposed by the ACA, my life is at stake every single day? Do they not care?

Many times, cancer patients hear the words, “Everything will be fine” or “Everything will work out” or “Trust in God.” Although the sentiments are nice, those are empty words to someone facing care they either cannot afford or will be denied.

I am reminded of the “Not in my back yard” (NIMBY) philosophy: If it is good for me, I don’t care if it’s bad for you. That is no way to plan a nation’s health care.