Why Obamacare Matters to This New Mom With Cancer

joanna montgomeryFor the first time in my adult life, the results of the upcoming election could have a direct, very tangible impact on my family and me. And I’m concerned.

This year I underwent extensive cancer surgery, followed by 24 rounds of chemotherapy. If I had not been covered by good insurance (thanks to my employer), my treatment would have cost us well over a million dollars. It could have bankrupted our family if we had been expected to pay these costs ourselves.


Every time I went into the infusion ward to be pumped full of costly cancer-killing poison, I was grateful to be insured. A single white blood count booster shot -- something I had to have every chemo cycle -- cost $8,000 alone. Even though it made me feel like shit for three days, I was grateful for that shot, and the fact that I didn't have to pay for it out of pocket.

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I can’t tell you how many times I thought, “What do people without insurance do when they get cancer?”

Mitt Romney has said unequivocally that if he is elected President, he will repeal all of the benefits of the current healthcare reform plan (Obamacare) on his first day in office. It’s top on his list, and he makes no bones about it. Never mind that he has admitted to being the "grandfather of Obamacare." The President’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has numerous similarities to the health care reform overhaul which the GOP candidate signed into law in 2006 as Massachusetts state governor, including a mandate to obtain health insurance. But none of that matters now. He’s determined to kill it, and to do so as soon as possible if given the chance.

So why am I worried about the existing affordable health care act being repealed?

As a cancer survivor with a high likelihood of recurrence, I am concerned about my cancer being considered a pre-existing condition going forward. With the affordable health care laws in place, I know that if I were to leave my full-time employment to work part-time, or take some time off to spend with my daughter while I can, I have the right to affordable health insurance coverage. I’d be covered in the event of a recurrence. And I could not be denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition.

However, if I choose to take a break from full-time employment, which would cause me to lose my benefits, and the affordable health care act is repealed, I’ll essentially be uninsurable once my 18 months of federally mandated COBRA coverage ends. My cancer would be considered a pre-existing condition, rendering me ineligible for new coverage ... or at least for coverage that would include anything cancer-related. So a recurrence would be financially devastating to us. We’d be screwed.

This is my primary concern right now, and one about which I have literally lost sleep as I contemplate having to go back to work full-time -- despite my post-chemo health issues, and despite the fact that this time I have with my daughter right now feels extra precious to me.  But it’s not my only concern.

As a woman, I know that under the current health care reform act I’m entitled to free preventative health services like mammograms, screenings for colon cancer, and other types of “well” monitoring. I also know that by 2014, under this same act, insurance companies will no longer be able to charge me more for health insurance than they charge a man for the same benefits. These issues are important to me.

As a mother, I know that under the current health care reform, preventative health care services for my child, such as well visits, regular checkups, and childhood immunizations, are covered without a co-pay or deductible. Also, I would never have to worry about my child being denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes, health conditions that run on both sides of my family.

As the mother of a baby girl in particular, I’m concerned about our country being led by a President who is not pro-woman. The GOP candidate has stated that, if elected, he intends to “get rid of” federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides lifesaving cancer screenings, annual pap smears, and birth control to millions of women in our country.

The current Presidential challenger has also made it clear that he supports a bill that could restrict access to birth control based on a “moral” conviction (the Blunt amendment). In addition, he supports the overturning of Roe v. Wade and now claims to be staunchly pro-life (whereas he used to claim to be pro-choice).

And let’s not even get into his “binders full of women” comment. The guy is simply out of touch with women. I want to live in a country that is moving forward, not backward. And if anything happens to me, I want the comfort of knowing that my daughter will grow up in a forward-moving world as well.

As a human being, I want in place a President who not only places great importance on health care and women’s issues, but also on the long-range future of our country -- namely, environmental issues and education for our children, including the support of public television and the arts.

I want my daughter to grow up with basic human rights -- affordable health care, gender equality, a good education, clean air, safe food, the right to marry whomever she may choose -- and Big Bird too. 

Images via Brooke Kelly; Erica Montgomery (photo inset)

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