33 years ago today (for some reason I remember it was on Flag Day) what started out as a routine trip to my doctor for a simple, yearly check-up became day one of a medical journey. During the exam, my doctor discovered a lump in my neck – one that I hadn’t even noticed – and recommended very urgently that I have it checked out by a specialist.
Without going into a lot of detail, a battery of tests resulted in the diagnoses of cancer. My world, as I knew it, suddenly tilted and for the next year my and my family’s focus was on my treatments, tests, and getting healthy again.
I am very lucky that my disease was caught early and that my particular type is – and was at that time – no longer considered an automatic death sentence. After going through multiple chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I got through the ordeal and eventually regained my hair, weight, and my health.
The one thing I learned I would not regain is the ability to get health insurance from any other source other than a traditional employer. I now had what insurance companies considered a “pre-existing condition.” I could never freelance or start my own business. I could never change jobs without having a new position waiting for me with minimal interruption. If there was a probationary period in a new job when I wouldn’t have coverage, I held my breath and didn’t let it out until the wait was over.
I am just one of millions of people in the U.S. who were, before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, considered uninsurable on our own. If we didn’t get coverage from our – or our spouse’s – employer, we had to go without health insurance. It could be a frightening and sometimes financially devastating place to be.
I will be forever grateful that I had traditional medical insurance coverage when I became sick and so very grateful to all of the doctors and healthcare professionals who took care of me. Today, I am especially grateful that the Affordable Care Act has allowed so many people get coverage that would have been out of luck before. The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect by any means but it’s the best we have right now.