Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No More Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Exclusions

A Medicare card, with several areas of the car...Image via Wikipedia

In response to my blog post from yesterday, Health Care Reform Won't Affect Me, a friend reminded me that a big part of the heath care reform bill dealt with pre-existing medical conditions. And all you need to do is look at my blog header for a pretty complete list of my pre-existing medical conditions. Can it be, for once in my life, I temporarily forgot about them? I guess being on Medicare can do that...

Truth is, in my recent past, choices in my working life centered around my mission to always be covered by health insurance.

But let's start at the beginning. I consider myself absolutely lucky that when I received my cancer diagnosis at age 22 I was still covered under both of my parents' health insurance policies. That's right, I had double coverage. I also consider myself fortunate that I continued to be covered under their insurance past my 23rd birthday because my cancer diagnosis, with its 33% chance of survival, qualified me as a
disabled dependent. I remained on my parents' insurance until I secured my first full-time job as a social worker with full medical benefits after I completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees at age 27.

Once I became employed, all my career choices included health insurance as a rule-out criteria, i.e. no health insurance benefits meant I would not consider the job. That criteria changed a bit after I got married in 1998. As long as one of us had access to health insurance through an employer, the other was free to pursue work that didn't offer it. We came a bit close to catastrophe in the early '00s when we were on COBRA benefits and neither one of us were working jobs that offered health benefits. But somehow everything worked out in our favor and we both landed in jobs that offered both of us medical benefits once again.

The bottom line is that once I finished my cancer treatment, I accepted the fact that I could never qualify for an individual health insurance policy. I resigned myself to the fact that as long as I was single, I needed to work for an employer with a medium to large workforce. Being married opened the door to expanded possibilities, because now my husband helped share the burden of obtaining health insurance. But even with a little wiggle room, health insurance always colored our job decisions.

Certainly becoming disabled skewed my quest for health insurance in my favor. Never did I think I would be on Medicare at this point in my life. No, my plan was to work, build up a career, gain experience and go back to school to earn a PhD and teach social work. I would qualify for MediCare when I reached 65 (or is it 67 by then?) and was enjoying a semi-retired life with some work, some travel and some more time with my spouse.

Ah, but life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

Let me acknowledge how truly lucky I have been when it comes to being continuously covered by health insurance. I do not take it for granted. I need to add it to my list of lucky breaks, which also include finding good parking spaces and great places to live. I realize not everyone in my situation finds themselves in such good fortune, which is why I honestly and truly hope that the new health care reform bill provision ensuring health insurance coverage for children and adults with pre-existing conditions takes effect as intended.

If I am ever able to work once again, I would relish the opportunity to walk down my career path without being held back from certain opportunities because of considerations around health insurance. What a world that would be!
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