I spent the day with incredible family and friends after going through more biopsies. I took some Oxycodin tonight to deal with a bit of the pain and as I was crawling into bed I received an email, from Health Partners… at 10:45pm. The header read, “A new explanation of Benefits is available.” For about 25 seconds my heartbeat went wild. Had they re-looked at my case and determined that my the fact I had cancer once, wasn’t a ‘pre-existing condition?” I grabbed John by the arm and said, “COME SEE!”
It was 10:45 and I got this….
A BILL. I was being charged almost $50 for equipment and ‘xrays’ on preventable care. (Which I wrongly assumed was covered at 100%.) This is just 8 hours after I went through an hour of biopsies and tears wondering what would happen if I needed chemo or radiation. So this $50, was NOTHING compared to what was coming from today’s visit. There had to be a reason they wouldn’t cover speculums or perhaps the q-tips used for the procedure… right? I started investigating from the beginning the timeline of why having Cancer without insurance is almost more debilitating than the disease, itself. Because tonight, when I was in physical pain, the mental concern of my financial future was debilitating. If Health Partners was going to charge me $50 because my doctor used a speculum and office equipment for the pap smear… what would they charge me to stay alive?
When I signed up for my HealthPartners plan, my preventative care was supposed to be covered at 100%, (as you can see below.)
This got me thinking… if preventive care was covered at 100%, did this mean that my clinic’s equipment was not the normal? When I should have been sleeping, I decided to dig further. I went through my ‘online inbox,’ and found a note they had sent me only 3 weeks prior to getting my pap. They requested that I utilize my benefit of ‘preventable care’ and schedule my pap smear. The note reads….
….And I did. On 5/11, I went in and got my pap smear. Something I had waited to do until my insurance would allow me to. It was then, I got a notice that my ‘pre-exisitng’ conditon of ‘Cervical Cancer,’ wouldn’t be covered. And it was then, when I got the results of my pap smear, that I really started to worry. Nothing after my ‘preventative care pap smear,’ would be covered. Not my colposcopy, not other biopsies, not sending out my tissue to a lab… not radiation, or a hysterectomy or chemo. Literally, nothing. Like a great bait and switch… I was now a money-making machine to my insurance. I had to pay in, but they didn’t really have to pay anything.
As much as I want to pick on Health Partners, this isn’t THEM. This is the state of insurance in America. I am one of MANY women who pay their insurance premiums but fall through gaps in coverage due to loopholes in corporate policy. Except THIS loophole, can cost me my savings, my health and possibly… my life.
This is just the start of my journey but my situation is one that MANY women and men face. I am LUCKIER than most, because I work for an incredible small company that offers health insurance; insurance that protects my daughter and I from life’s greatest tragedies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t protect us from the very real threats of cancer, (at least for a few more months while my ‘pre-existing condition’ clause is in play.) I write to help you EDUCATE yourselves. Cancer can happen to you. This is my 3rd round with Cervical Cancer. I speak nationally, I’ve been to Capitol Hill and I’ve tried to evoke change with our state representatives. I have friends that work for Health Partners. I used to love their campaigns, but this is now happening to me. I’m educated. intelligent and very pro-active about my health. This is why it’s even more important that we keep an eye out for those not so lucky: the under-insured and the un-insurable. There are those that can’t afford their monthly payments.
It was strange timing at 10:45pm when that message hit my inbox. I was angry, (as Twitter can tell,) but more importantly I knew: for every moment I face this, thousands more face it worse. I know that if we band together, we can bring light and real change to those facing similar circumstances. I’m determined to make this a community issue: one that we rise up to and acknowledge. I will go through a million biopsies if that’s what it takes to bring light and power to affordable health care. On a side-note, in my policy, “infertility” is covered with my deductible. I wouldn’t have to face BEING infertile, if my Cervical Cancer was covered. It’s strange how insurance works. My doctor told me today, “I’ll do my best to save your fertility, but it might be out of our hands.” They are right.. it’s in my insurance’s hands. (They won’t pay to store or remove my eggs due to cervical cancer.)
Governor Mark Dayton vetoed a bill that would have limited abortion resources and family planning funding to low-income women and men. Given the opportunity to hug him and tell him, “you are saving my life,” I would in a second. I have hope that I am going through this for a substantial reason. If I lose my fertility and a little bit of my pride to openly say, “I’m at a loss on how to pay these medical bills alone,” then I’ll say it. I’ll also say, that this is SUCH a bigger issue than abortion or women’s rights. It was once said: how we treat the lowliest of us, is how strong we are as a society. Let’s step up. demand change and remember that we have a voice.