But, given the Republican drive to keep young people from buying health insurance, I’m afraid those 600 stories are very likely to become real. All those young adults who are so sure that “It could never happen to me!”
The National Cancer Institute of NIH estimates that there are about 1,660,000 new cases of cancer per year in the US (http://seer.cancer.gov/...). Of these, about 2.6%, or 43,160, will be diagnosed in people aged 20 to 34, the group the right wing is trying to convince that health insurance is an unnecessary scam. About 1/12 of these cases, some 3600, will be diagnosed in January, the first month that these folks would have health insurance under Obamacare if they sign up now. But if our rightwing friends have their way, something like 1 in 6 of these folks will remain uncovered.
Continue reading to see how that scenario might play out for one of the unlucky 600.
The clinical details are real, based on a young man who was diagnosed with a tumor in his spinal cord at age 29. He went for an MRI (covered by car insurance) after someone hit his car and he kept having neck problems for 2 months. The trauma neurologist spotted a spinal cord tumor on MRI, but no trauma damage. He was not qualified to deal with the tumor.
The obvious next step at this point would be a referral to a neurosurgeon with expertise in spinal cord tumors. (You don’t want an amateur cutting up your spinal cord in your neck. One slip and you are quadriplegic and on a ventilator, or dead.)
But if you don’t have insurance, you have to pay for the neurosurgeon consultation out of pocket. These guys are the highest paid physicians in our hospitals. All the money you thought you were saving next year by not buying insurance? Gone, before that first consultation is over.
The neurosurgeon will tell you that the standard of care is microsurgical removal of the tumor. If it is left in, it will grow. First you’ll lose sensation and function in lower limbs, then upper limbs, and of course bodily functions in between will be affected. This story does not have a good ending. The surgery itself is risky, so you’ll want the best, most experienced person, in the best hospital. We’re talking more than half a million dollars for surgery and immediate follow-up care. The hospital will not offer you a bargain deal or operate and hope you’ll come up with the money. This is not the ER, where they have to treat you if your life is in danger.
Without Obamacare, you’d have no insurance, and no way of getting it once that “pre-existing condition” was diagnosed. And if you had old-style insurance and hit the cap (pretty easy to do after that first half million), you’d be on your own after that.
Our young man did have insurance. He was referred to a top specialist, and his tumor was removed successfully in a ten-hour surgery, and he’s doing fine over a decade later. Thanks to Obamacare, he doesn’t have to worry any more about hitting the cap, or being denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
A lot of young people think that it’s worth buying a lottery ticket in the hopes that lightning will strike and make them rich. You have to wonder, why would they think they are immune to the kind of lightning that can strike and make you desperately ill? I hope we won’t have to hear the stories of 600 or so uninsured young people diagnosed with cancer in January, without access to healthcare. But I’m afraid there will be a lot who have bought the propaganda, not the insurance, and their stories will be sad.