Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
It is sickening and frightening. Think I am talking about my cancer struggle? Nope. It's the current state of discussion by elected officials and even by some health policy experts on the dysfunctional implementation of the insurance exchange sign-up portion of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.
Behind all this political posturing on both sides are real people, real patients with very real health care needs who do not know exactly how things will play out for them over the next several weeks. In Colorado, we've got a real mess with the insurance exchange/marketplace IT. The article in Health Policy Solutions calls our issues here "odious and embarrassing." I call them terrifying and potentially lethal.
Right now, I need to know what my insurance situation will be in January. My current COBRA/Aetna coverage costs us $875/month, and we cannot keep that premium payment up for long. As soon as I was able, I went to the Colorado exchange site and made my way through the obnoxious and privacy-invading Medicaid application required of me (though I already knew I would not qualify for Medicaid but simply wanted to apply for a subsidy/tax credit). I had no choice as I could not go forward to finish the process unless I did do the Medicaid app. I got a message that said I would hear an answer in 45 days. That was more than five weeks ago. 35 days and counting.
In the meantime, my latest cancer marker test results showed I need more diagnostic testing and perhaps some care for my carcinoid issues. So, here we sit at November 5th. The financial and health care clock ticking for me, and I cannot find out what my insurance may look like on January 1. That's less than eight weeks away. And no providers I know of will give a damn what the problem is if I have insurance exchange related problems on January 1 and cannot prove I have adequate coverage for care. They'll stop me before I pass go. The cancer won't wait, though. And I don't even know if I'll be able to see the same providers or have any continuity of care at all. This really stinks.
The tragedy is that the political fight for a humane and sane system would have been the same if it had been fought for single-payer, improved and expanded Medicare for all for life. The big difference would have been that now we'd all be signing up for our Medicare cards and coverage -- and we'd have access to necessary medical care without financial barrier. And that would have been something the general public would have understood and embraced.
I am not one of the people who clamored for the ACA./Obamacare to fail. I do think it was and is an unnecessarily complex system that bails out the for-profit, private insurance industry, and I want single-payer. But as a cancer patient what I really want right now is access to the coverage and care I will need to fight this disease. And it doesn't look like those of us in Colorado are going to have a fair chance with that. The blame game is being fought while the injuries and stress for people like me are secondary. Shameful stuff.
November 5, 2013 -- Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:
The 2013, to date, U.S. medical-financial-
industrial -complex system dead: 38,394
The 2013, to date, U.S. health care system bankrupt: 606,314
** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.http://www.healthcareforallcolorado.org/endorse_right_to_health_care
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