Cancer Patients in Fear of the Ultimate Death Panel

Great article in the WaPo, reminds me of my friend Liz.  She was young when she was first diagnosed with an aggressive type of lymphoma.  In 50% of cases, this type of cancer can be cured with chemotherapy.  She had lost her insurance at the time.  So she spent about $ 350,000 of her savings and was lucky to get a cure, but she was also broke!   Years later she applied for Obamacare on the exchange.  She was actually waiting for her insurance card to go back to a physician and deal with some new troubling symptoms.  The card did not come in time.  She died very suddenly without medical insurance.The new WaPo article describes other cancer patients and how they feel about losing Obamacare.  Here is some of their testimony:

Ashley Walton was 25 when a mole on her back turned out to be melanoma. She had it removed, but three years later she discovered a lump in her abdomen. She was then unemployed and uninsured, …. Every company rejected her.

By the time Walton finally sought medical help, the melanoma had spread to her brain, lungs and elsewhere. And she eventually became eligible for California’s Medicaid program, which had been expanded under the Affordable Care Act. Two major surgeries, radiation and immunotherapy did not cure the cancer — but did beat it back.

She credits her survival to the ACA. Without it, “I would likely be dead, and my family would likely be bankrupt from trying to save me,” she said. Her greatest concern is that Republican assaults on the law will imperil that coverage.

“For cancer survivors, we literally live and die by insurance,” Walton said.

“People are scared out of their minds,” said 34-year-old Erin Price-Schabert, who seven years ago was treated for breast cancer. She frets whether that history would make her “uninsurable” in the individual market if she were to leave her job.

Indeed, many people described a kind of existential dread that matches their fear of cancer.

House Republicans have called for major changes in federal subsidies, which have helped the vast majority of people with ACA policies afford their plans. They want state high-risk health insurance pools for people with big medical bills.

Herbert Malamut of Southampton, N.J., is on edge. He remembers the old insurance pools, …  “Those pools were poorly funded and had high premiums and skimpy benefits,” said Malamut, 61, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012. “I don’t know why we would go back to them.”

“Some people will fall through the cracks,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the ­Kaiser Family Foundation.

Elizabeth Alcorn, 56, and her husband say  “We are too young for Medicare.” He’s dealing with prostate cancer that just recurred after several years. “I have had good security with [the ACA],” Gerry Corridon said, “and now we don’t know how this is going to end up.”

In Thousand Oaks, Calif., the law’s bleak future is weighing heavily on 61-year-old Maryann Hammers, too. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer three years ago, the freelance writer underwent surgery and chemotherapy and often couldn’t work. The disease recurred seven months later, and now blood tests suggest that it’s back yet again.

“I know what’s coming next,” she said. “And it’s a friggin’ nightmare.”

Hammers has been covered by an ACA health plan. She’s “completely panicked” about the Republicans’ plan to repeal the law and what that could do to her coverage next year.“Without coverage, I don’t get care, and without care, I die,” she said. “So, to me, the people trying to do away with the ACA are the ultimate death panel.”

Wake up, Rep Lee Zeldin!  There are about 9000 cases of cancer (invasive malignant tumors) annually in Suffolk county. Most of these people are your constituents. They depend on you.   Without affordable health care coverage, they die!

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About D. Posnett MD

Emeritus Prof. of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College
This entry was posted in ACA, Health Care, Uncategorized, Zeldin and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Cancer Patients in Fear of the Ultimate Death Panel

  1. John Hooker says:

    Sometimes I wish I could charter people out to other European countries so that they would be able to see how the sick are cared for when the government or any other system offers them full coverage. They all do in one way or another. Every advanced western nation.

  2. I guess we don’t qualify as “advanced”. Sad.

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