Given the confusion many of us feel concerning the proposed health care reform, I would like to address just one of the extremely important issues that are crucial to any reform package signed into law this fall. It is a problem that most of us don't even worry about until it is too late: pre-existing conditions. Events from my life experiences connect me deeply to this issue, but there is no doubt that this topic has, will, or is currently affecting almost everyone or someone in the lives of everyone reading this.
My father was killed in a high-speed car chase. He was on his way home to his family when he was tragically struck by a car being pursued by police in unmarked vehicles. My mother was widowed at the age of 36 with five children. Our health insurance through his employer was almost immediately terminated. My mother, who was diagnosed and living with Type 1 diabetes since age 15, was never able to obtain health insurance on her own, as that is considered a pre-existing condition. In these toughest of times, we were on our own.
My mother was then diagnosed with lymphoma when she was 43. She put up the most valiant of fights, undergoing every treatment available so that she could raise us and see us achieve our dreams. When she died 10 years later, my siblings and I, all of us only in our 20s, scrambled to pay all of her medical bills, which took us almost five years to complete.
How many of us have stories like this? Even if this doesn't apply directly to you, it is time for all of us to look beyond the tips of our own noses and come to grips with the reality of the many others struggling with their health issues and then going bankrupt just trying to stay alive. You, your child, your neighbor or anyone else could be next.
One of the hallmarks of all proposed health care reform bills being debated in Congress is to require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions so all Americans, regardless of their health status or history, can get comprehensive benefits at fair and stable premiums. Patients will be able to make health care decisions with their doctors, instead of being blocked by insurance company bureaucrats. It will require coverage of preventive services, including cancer screenings. For example, did you know that if you are diagnosed with one type of cancer and you have the misfortune of having it metastasize, which is not uncommon, your insurance company has the ability to rule it as a secondary and separate disease, thereby being able to deny coverage because you now have a "pre-existing condition."
All these brave warriors who put up the fight the first go around are simply pushed out of the system when their cancer recurs years later. Far too many people are canceled by their insurance companies at the time when they need it most with the explanation of "Sorry, but you have a pre-existing condition." Sorry, but this is absolutely unacceptable.
My youngest child has the misfortune of inheriting the Type 1 diabetes gene from my mother, and he will live attached to an insulin pump for the rest of his life. Although great advances have been made in medicine, I fear my own child may never be afforded health insurance for his own future family because of his "pre-existing condition."
Comprehensive health care reform is imperative for my son and the millions of Americans who struggle exponentially just living with these diseases or injuries. As citizens of this country, each and every one of us deserves the right to affordable and dependable health care. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you stand, it is time to turn the page on the failed practices of the current health care system while keeping the components that are successful; and we must have reform that will do just that.
If you care about the future of this great country, I urge you to contact your senators and tell them to support affordable and dependable health care for all Americans.