Imagine this: You’re someone with a pre-existing medical condition, like a cancer survivor. The federal government changes current law that requires insurers to offer you coverage and leaves it up to the state you live in. And your state decides that insurers don’t have to offer Americans with pre-existing conditions coverage anymore. Now what?
This is what cancer survivors fear – a patchwork of 50 different sets of rules determining where we live, go to school, work, seek medical care, raise our families and retire. We fear having to move because we can no longer afford health insurance in our home state or because insurers are once more allowed to turn us away.
Love it or hate it, there is no denying that before the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2011, cancer survivors, along with many other Americans with pre-existing conditions, faced enormous challenges obtaining insurance.
Many providers simply refused to sell a policy to someone who had survived cancer. We were a risk insurers were not willing to take.
A large number of people with pre-existing conditions stayed in jobs they had outgrown because of their insurance, knowing that if they quit, their chances of a new provider taking them on were pretty slim.
And those of us that were able to obtain coverage often did so at enormous cost.
All that changed in 2011. According to the Affordable Care Act, insurers were no longer allowed to discriminate against Americans with pre-existing conditions and were required to offer them coverage. Not just in some states but in every state.
That protection is now in jeopardy. The Graham-Cassidy bill currently being debated on Capitol Hill would give each state the authority to decide how to proceed on pre-existing condition coverage. Some states have great records on protecting vulnerable people but sadly, in many others, the decks are stacked against them.
If the Graham-Cassidy bill passes in its current form, cancer survivors will lose the protection that federal law currently provides us in the health insurance market. Not only that but 50 state legislatures will be scrambling to create order out of chaos and the insurance industry will have an even bigger challenge than it does now.
“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ says Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, about the Graham-Cassidy bill. “The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”
In fact, here are a few more of the many organizations speaking out against this legislation:
- The Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement
- HIV Medicine Association
- Association of American Medical Colleges
- American Heart Association
- America’s Health Insurance Plans
- Kaiser Permanente
- Planned Parenthood
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship
Despite all of this opposition, Congressional leaders are still pushing ahead and doing their best to get this legislation passed.
That is why the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network is urging survivors to call their elected representatives in Washington to ask them to vote no on the Graham-Cassidy bill in its current form. I am doing so today and I am asking cancer survivors to start dialing as well.
This is the moment to speak out. Let’s make our voices heard.