The New York Times ran a powerful "Life, Interrupted" column yesterday from Suleika Jaouad, a 24-year-old writer, offering readers a look at the health care system from a patient's perspective.
Like a lot of other young people, I never thought about health insurance until I got sick. I was 22, and my adult life was just beginning. But less than a year after walking across the stage at my college graduation, I received an unexpected diagnosis -- acute myeloid leukemia -- and with it came a flurry of consultations, tests and appointments. From early on, my doctors told me I would need chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant.
But before the shock of the news could settle in -- before I could consider where and how I would be treated -- I did what most Americans must do when beset with a medical crisis: I called my insurance provider.
Before I made that first phone call, I confess I didn't know exactly what the word "premium" meant. And "co-pay" sounded to me like what happens when friends split the bill at dinner. Certainly, the term "lifetime limit" had no meaning to me yet.... Now, I was facing cancer -- and I was beginning to get worried about coverage from an insurance plan I knew virtually nothing about.
Jaouad not only had to focus on her medical treatments, she had to learn quite a bit about her coverage -- which she currently has thanks to the Affordable Care Act's provision that extends protections to young adults until they're 26, and which shielded her from crushing medical bills she couldn't afford.
The piece is well worth reading closely, and it's hard not to marvel at the details of Jaouad's ordeal, facing a life-threatening disease while simultaneously navigating a serpentine medical/financial maze.
And in two years, she'll turn 26, and Jaouad has no idea what she'll do. It's possible she'll get coverage from a future employer, but finding and keeping a good job while undergoing treatment for leukemia is, shall we say, tricky.
What's more, she's all too aware of the fact that if Republicans destroy the Affordable Care Act next year, Jaouad can be denied coverage going forward based on a pre-existing condition.
Reading the piece -- and I do hope you'll read it -- my first thought is of course wishing Jaouad and her family well at this incredibly difficult time. But I also can't help but wonder about the impact the political world will have on their lives and the lives of millions facing similar circumstances.
Mitt Romney has said, nearly every day for years, that one of his top priorities is killing "Obamacare." Congressional Republicans have vowed to erase every word of every page of the law, and plenty of voters think that's a great idea. I read every transcript of every Romney stump speech, and every time he vows to destroy the law, GOP audiences cheer and applaud.
But I'm reminded reading Jaouad's column of a question I want to ask these folks who are so eager to turn back the clock: are you sure?
Before we undo the breakthrough accomplishment of 2010, a bipartisan law a century in the making, are you at all concerned that maybe, just maybe, you or someone close to you might actually want the Affordable Care Act to be in place? Do you think it's possible you might wake up one day with regret, thinking, "On second thought, maybe those protections would have been good for me and my family?"
How confident are you that you'll be better off once the reforms are destroyed? Will Suleika Jaouad and everyone in America like her have a more secure future if the law is repealed or it's fully implemented?
Have you really thought this through, or do you hate Obamacare because you've been told to hate Obamacare?