I AM A PREEXISTING CONDITION
I have a new role in addition to those I already hold as Husband, Father, Grandfather, Son, Brother, Uncle, CEO, etc. As of March this year I am a preexisting condition. I obtained that new role by virtue of being diagnosed with Lymphoma; thank God one that is in the indolent state – which basically means that right now it is not actively trying to kill me. But it might sometime. Anytime.
So I carry with me a preexisting health condition. And the health care bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives scares me – a lot. Therefore I am counting on Senators Isakson and Perdue to fix it. Not just for me, but for the hundreds of thousands of others who wear the label “I am a preexisting condition.” Even though, as the CEO of a human services organization, I have been deeply involved for over a decade in the fight for social justice and basic human rights, now it is really in my face. As they say – now it is personal.
Some who know me might ask why I am concerned about my personal situation. After all, I am well compensated and I have excellent health care insurance. While my deductible isn’t low, it is manageable in my economic situation. If anything, listening to some in Congress, I should be thrilled about the AHCA bill because it is going to help me lower my tax burden.
If I was short-sighted and focused only on myself and my needs I might buy into that argument. But I am not and I don’t. The preexisting conditions changes to the Affordable Care Act that were passed in the House bill are harmful to many right now and potentially disastrous to those, like me, that seem to be immune to its meanness.
The problem with the way in which preexisting conditions are treated in the new bill is not the fact that insurance companies will no longer be required to cover them. Putting aside for a moment the issue of access to adequate health insurance and the expansion of Medicaid – both HUGE concerns – we see that strangely the root of this issue is not with those who don’t have insurance, it is with those who do! The concern is that in order to be covered you must have continuous insurance coverage or go into high risk pools set up by the States. These are both potentially huge challenges to people of low to moderate income, those who become unemployed, and yes, even the ‘well off’ – like me. Because it doesn’t take all that much to make someone who is ‘well off’ to become someone who is struggling to make ends meet. We at SVdP Georgia saw it thousands of times in the last economic downturn. Recessions don’t discriminate – they hurt all kinds of people.
Imagine for a minute that you are an employed person with adequate health insurance, and that you have a preexisting condition. You just manage to pay the bills you have before your deductible is met. (Just for context; it took me less than 30 days to spend up to my deductible of $2500 during the testing and treatment just prior to my diagnosis – these bills come at you fast and furious; it is not something that you can easily budget or level pay). Anyway, now imagine that you lose your job. In order for you to maintain ‘continuous coverage’ you are going to need to buy into COBRA. And that is not inexpensive. With no job you may well not be able to afford it. Or you may exhaust your savings and then have to stop being covered. If you let it lapse for more than 63 days then you are potentially going to face a 30% surcharge imposed by the AHCA on insurance that you obtain once you are able to get it. That could be devastating.
The preexisting coverage provisions of the AHCA are very harmful to everyone because of the continuous coverage requirements, but the negative effects will be felt most acutely by people with not only with pre-existing conditions, but anyone of low-income and/or unstable employment. These are the most vulnerable people often in the most need of health coverage.
This fight is too important to ignore. Hopefully the US Senate will craft a solution that will help fix those things in the Affordable Care Act that need to be fixed; and there are certainly a few, without harming those who are the most vulnerable. Or without harming those, like me, that may become vulnerable later.
I am a preexisting condition. This time it’s personal.