My Turn: The thin ice of American health care

For the Monitor
Published: 1/10/2017 12:20:04 AM

The doctor looked us in the eyes and said, “I don’t want to give you a diagnosis, because if I do, you will lose your insurance.”

My ex-husband’s father had Huntington’s disease, so my ex-husband, Bob, was at risk for that hideous genetic illness that slowly deteriorates the brain. He was displaying clear symptoms. His coordination was beginning to be affected, and he had recently been laid off from his job as an electrical engineer because his performance had declined.

In Bob’s case, the physician was able to take a compassionate approach and spare us the formal diagnosis because there was no treatment and no genetic test at the time. As a result, Bob kept his insurance for a while.

Many Americans will be faced with a chronic illness in their lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 39 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lives, and more than 29 million Americans have diabetes. Twenty-three percent of all adults have arthritis, which the CDC considers “a leading cause of disability.” In 2012, “about half of all adults – 117 million people – had one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.”

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, eliminated the loophole where insurance companies could refuse to cover people with known illnesses. Now President-elect Trump and most members of the Republican Party want to repeal the ACA, with no plan for a replacement.

Perhaps you think it won’t affect you or your loved ones because you have employer-provided insurance. Well, most people I know who’ve lost their jobs at one point or another in their lives didn’t expect it to happen. Companies move jobs to other states, go out of business or downsize due to automation. People sometimes lose their ability to perform their jobs due to health reasons. Divorce affects those whose insurance was provided by a spouse’s employer.

An article on CNBC.com quotes a survey that shows unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of people filing for bankruptcy.

We live in the greatest country in the world, with many of the best doctors and most advanced medical facilities. No one should have to go bankrupt to pay for health care.

(Danielle M. Eriksen lives in Weare.)




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