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Monday, November 29, 2010

Health reform: A women's take

Over the summer, like any responsible young woman should, I got my yearly physical, which included a pap smear. For those of you unfamiliar with the uncomfortable procedure us women have to endure entirely too often—it is a screening test used to detect precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix.

A week later, I received a phone call that most women dread—my test results came back abnormal, and I needed to see a specialist.

After another painful procedure, and a long wait, I was told the abnormal cells were precancerous and needed to be removed. I’m lucky, they found these cells before they actually became a problem, but what lies ahead of me is surgery and then months of follow-ups to ensure that the precancerous cells have not grown back.

Unlike millions of Americans, I have health insurance, good health insurance. When I was told I needed to see a specialist or that I required surgery, my initial thought was not “how am I going to afford this?”—it was “send me to the best doctor you have!” However, millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans do not have that luxury.

Although I am insured now, my diagnosis came in the midst of my application process to graduate school. My plan was to go to school next fall, full-time, which meant I would no longer have the benefit of my employer’s health insurance. Up until the last few months, what I would do for health coverage after I enrolled in school was the farthest thing from my mind, I figured I would just purchase a plan on the private market. However, now that I have a pre-existing condition, things have changed, and finding health coverage on the private insurance market could be difficult, if not impossible.

Lucky for me, the Affordable Care Act is now law and come 2014 insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against me for having a pre-existing condition. They will also not be allowed to charge me more for being a woman and being, in their eyes, a bad business investment.

Sadly, there are still opponents of health reform who are ready and willing to take all of this away from me and the millions of Americans who have been struggling for years to find affordable, quality insurance. Without these improvements to the private insurance market, it will most likely be impossible for me to either find health insurance or to find coverage that covers my condition. And although the surgery that lies ahead of me will take care of the problem now, this is something that my doctors and I will have to stay on top of for the rest of my life. Without health coverage, I will not be able to do that.

The Affordable Care Act has given millions of Americans new hope for finding and keeping quality, affordable health coverage. To know that the consumer protections in the law will allow me to find coverage, despite my pre-existing condition has given me a sense of relief during a time of immense anxiety. However, opponents of the law are ready to let that all go just for a short-sighted political win, but quite frankly, I am not going to let them play politics with my health.