As a newly diagnosed metastatic breast cancer patient and wife, teacher, and mother of two, I am deeply concerned about the loss of my grandfathered insurance policy effective Jan. 1 and even more anxious about the proposed health care repeal bill that threatens to financially ruin our middle class family and small business.
Our income level does not allow us to benefit from Affordable Care Act subsidies, our monthly premiums have tripled in six years, and we are preparing for a more than doubling in our deductible and a minimum increase of 15 percent in our monthly premiums, which surpasses our mortgage payment.
How have we come to a place where our family has to decide between sending our two daughters to college or me foregoing life-extending treatment and entering hospice care so my family does not have to incur financial ruin due to my pre-existing health condition?
We downsized homes last year in anticipation of health care increases; however, we did not realize that my “cured” breast cancer would return.
If states are given the freedom to choose whether or not to exempt or nullify pre-existing conditions with medical insurance, then metastatic cancer patients like myself have much to lose and little to gain.
I am not a statistic; I am a 41-year-old wife, mother, and teacher. I’ve never smoked, I’ve always exercised and eaten healthy, yet I now have stage IV breast cancer in my liver.
I’m the granddaughter of two World War II veterans and the daughter of a retired school teacher and a general contractor. I was salutatorian of my graduating class, homecoming queen, a N.C. page to our local representative in Raleigh, and editor of our yearbook.
I moved my voter registration to the city of my college residence while studying to be a teacher so I could vote in person in my first presidential election. I married my high school sweetheart, and we’ve reared a beautiful family while giving back to our community through the blessings of our small landscape business.
We’ve believed in and lived the American dream by working hard, planning wisely, and praying fervently.
At no fault of our own, everything we’ve worked for now stands in the balance of Washington bureaucrats who feel no personal effects of the laws they stand to pass – all because of the crossroads of health care reform and the timing of my cancer’s return.
I want to continue to see my medical team, a network I may lose come Jan. 1. These are the people who saved my life almost seven years ago with my first cancer battle. I should not have to worry about where or with whom – or even if – I’ll get chemo in a few months, but I am.
Our family has always paid for our health care; we don’t expect a free handout. It’s in our DNA – work hard and pay your own way. What we do expect is continued timeliness of treatment and access to quality care at a price we can remotely afford.
I desire the same health care as cancer-fighting politicians like the late Ted Kennedy, former President Jimmy Carter, and Sen. John McCain.
I want to see my daughters graduate high school in two and five years.
I need my health care for a fighting chance to make those milestones, and I’m holding the elected officials we sent to Washington accountable for just that.
Please don’t discriminate against those of us with pre-existing conditions. We are not to blame; the astronomical costs of pharmaceuticals regulated by drug companies that lobby and line the pockets of politicians and greedy insurance companies, who stand to profit – again – from reform measures, are to blame.
Instead of singling out the sick, small business owners, and the middle class, let’s find a way to provide for them common sense health care reform that gives them the opportunity to get better, to continue providing jobs in local communities across America, and to build a dream that we desperately want our children to embrace and believe in as well.
Erin Sipe is a resident of Hickory.