March 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to You

Everything Changes is throwing a 1-year-old birthday party for the Affordable Care Act. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what’s in the bill – you’re not alone. Our big, broken health care system needed a fabulous new makeover; the changes are welcome, yet complex.

I’ve made a cliff notes version of the main parts of the bill that are already in effect and impact our freedom to access care. Please read, check back, and share the info with your friends and families so we can all better understand and celebrate our new healthcare freedoms and rights.


No more caps. Insurers can’t set dollar limits on your lifetime benefits coverage, no exceptions. Annual benefits caps have been raised to $750,000 and will also be fully eliminated in 2014. Big Darn Deal = Cancer patients don’t have to worry about rationing their care for fear of being cut off.

Insurers are required to provide coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions. Applies to kids 19 and under. Big Darn Deal = Have you ever paid out of pocket for asthma treatment? Enough said.

Young adults can be covered under parental insurance plans until age 26, including married young adults, students, and non-students. Big Darn Deal = Most young adults are not slackers, we just can’t afford insurance while job searching and working entry level jobs with few benefits.

Before, if an insurance company got hit with a big claim, they could find an unintentional error on your application (even from years ago) and use it as a basis to make a big u-turn and deny you coverage. This u-turn is called a rescission and they can’t do it anymore. Big Darn Deal = Your mom is diagnosed with breast cancer and her insurance company can’t deny her coverage because she forgot to mention an ingrown toenail on her insurance application in 1999.

Pleas Please
You’ll now have the right to appeal decisions your insurance company makes about your health care (such as refusing coverage) to an independent, third party reviewer. Big Darn Deal = Insurance companies have to be accountable to someone besides themselves.

What the hell are insurance exchanges? Think of exchanges as insurance shopping malls especially designed for individuals and small business that have a hard time finding insurance. The government is building the mall and will only let stores set up shop if they agree to treat individuals and small business shoppers fairly. Big Darn Deal = Insurance companies can’t rob blind a huge part of America’s workforce – individuals and small businesses.  Instead they’ll compete for our business with plans that are more affordable, and easier to understand and compare.

Do any of these changes impact you as a cancer patient or loved one?  How so? Share your thoughts and comments below.

Check back again for ongoing conversation about access to health insurance at

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook

June 24, 2009

Pre-existing Conditions & Your Career Path

California Prisons

I’ve had to live with jobs that were way off my career path just to pay my health insurance.  Heidi Adams, executive director of Planet Cancer, is going to be asking President Obama about this very issue on ABC Primetime tonight live at 10 PM EST.  The program is called “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” (Must see young adult cancer TV.  Go Heidi Go!)

During cancer treatment I lived on disability.  Afterwords I needed a job with health insurance.  In my book Everything Changes, I wrote about my day job working for a non-profit organization that helped ex-offenders. “I sat in church basements with rapists and murderers (a remarkably respectful and nice bunch of guys) teaching résumé writing and feeding them the organization’s line that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. These men and I knew this was bullshit, that life’s circumstances don’t necessarily comply with will or effort.”

The job had ups and downs.  The downs: My employer’s insurance agent called me nonstop asking when my cancer would be gone so their healthcare rates would go down.  I worked 40 hours a week, the pay was lousy, and I had no reserve energy to write or choreograph.  For the first time in my life I was utterly non-creative.  So much for living your dreams after cancer, right?

The ups: I had health insurance.  And, the men I taught were pretty cool.  After going through cancer it was great to be surrounded by people who were also struggling to adjust to “normal” life.  They made me feel like less of a freak.  We were good company for each other.  Is it pathetic that ex-cons made me feel normal?  I don’t think so.  We were all just people trying to cope with change.

How has cancer and the need for health coverage impacted your work life?  What jobs have you taken that you would not have otherwise?  What were the ups and downs?  Are you job searching now or returning to work and how are you handling it?

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook