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Multiple Myeloma Patient Shares Opinion On The Affordable Care Act
Posted: Jul 09, 2015
Multiple Myeloma Patient Shares Opinion On The Affordable Care Act image

BY LIZZY SMITH Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems to be a hot topic again, I wanted to share an Op-Ed piece I wrote for the Chicago Tribune last year. It details my story of almost become uninsured in the midst of my multiple myeloma diagnosis. This should never happen to anyone, much less to someone with a chronic illness.

Fix Obamacare, don't repeal it

March 14, 2014|By Lizzy Smith for the Chicago Tribune
I am the face of Obamacare I have multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. I'm 46 years old and, until I was diagnosed, was in excellent health. I did all the right things. I ate right, ran five days a week, didn't smoke or drink and had no history of cancer. I worked hard, earned an excellent income and never took a government handout for anything. And then it all came crashing down in an instant when I heard my doctor say, "You have cancer." I immediately went on medical leave from my high-paying corporate job. I was married at the time to an abusive alcoholic. When I realized I was sick, I knew I was finally leaving him for good and moving to Utah to seek treatment. It was a lot to take in all at once. But it got more complicated. Just months prior, during our employers' open enrollment season, my husband and I had decided that he would carry our family's medical insurance that year. And he tried to use that against me. "If you leave me, I'll cancel your insurance," he threatened. I was horrified and scared. Thank goodness I had made that move to Utah because it turned out to be a "qualifying change," meaning I could purchase my own health insurance through my employer outside of the typical enrollment period. Otherwise, I would've been uninsurable thanks to my new "pre-existing condition" and unable to pay for the treatments I needed to stay alive. Millions of Americans, however, aren't as lucky. Unable to return to work, I eventually went on COBRA in order to keep my insurance plan, but COBRA expires after 18 months. The Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, became law just in time for me and, luckily, I've experienced no gap in coverage — just barely. And if things had worked out just a bit differently? I shudder just thinking about it. So let's talk about my new policy under Obamacare. For one, my premiums have declined by half. Before selecting my plan, I did my homework (a critical component for purchasing a good policy). I made sure that my doctors accepted the insurance and that my specific drugs, treatments and tests would be covered. So far, I've used my new plan many times and it's working. That said, there are huge gaps that must be addressed, like high deductibles and maximum annual out-of-pocket costs. Many Americans aren't eligible to purchase off the health care exchanges at all. But instead of talking about how to strengthen Obamacare, most Republicans and some pundits find it far sexier to call for a complete repeal. Their near gloating over flaws and failures is disturbing. Let's be clear. Those of us on Obamacare are not lazy, unwilling to work, looking for a free handout, or sitting at home abusing our bodies. Like all Americans, we simply need health insurance. Because without it, we die needlessly. And this could be you without warning. There is a huge misconception by many who've never lived with a chronic disease. They think you can't be denied health care — just walk into an emergency room if you must. But you can't walk into an ER and get chemo, or a heart transplant, or long-term care for diabetes. Those who have chronic illnesses are denied treatments every day, usually with dire consequences. Because if you can't pay for those treatments upfront or have adequate insurance, you simply don't get care. Acceptable? Of course not. Obamacare isn't perfect but it is a step in the right direction. Let's fix it, not repeal it. Lizzy Smith is a blogger, columnist and freelance writer. She chronicles her journey at
The author Lizzy Smith

about the author
Lizzy Smith

Lizzy Smith was diagnosed with myeloma in 2012 at age 44. Within days, she left her job, ended her marriage, moved, and entered treatment. "To the extent I'm able, I want to prove that despite life's biggest challenges, it is possible to survive and come out stronger than ever," she says.

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