The Cost of Being Uninsured Today Can Cost Your Life Tomorrow
by Marly Bobillier Grosso
A few years ago, my then employer announced reductions in staff to every department within the company, including the visual design team where I worked. I became one more casualty of the crumbling retail world. Along with my job, our health insurance also ended. Like so many families, I was basically working for health insurance. My husband was self-employed, and insurance through his business would have been so much more for our family that we just could not afford it.
I was offered a COBRA plan. COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) allows you, if you lose your job, to continue to have health coverage for either eighteen or thirty-six months, depending on certain factors. But you have to pay the premiums yourself. And we were a family of four, which meant a monthly premium of at least $1800.
We decided to take our chances. We were both healthy, so we chose to keep paying our bills and having a roof over our heads rather than to pay the COBRA premium. Six months later, however, my husband, who was only forty-eight years old at the time, was diagnosed with prostate cancer. We scrambled to find affordable healthcare and try to deal with the emotional roller coaster we found ourselves on. I was still unemployed and struggled to pay our mounting monthly expenses and out-of-pocket medical costs.
We made too much money to qualify for Obamacare and not enough to afford COBRA or any other independent health-care plan available on the open market. My husband’s cancer diagnosis was now a pre-existing condition, so any such plan would be extremely expensive.
In New York, Obamacare is available through the NY State of Health, the official marketplace for health care in the state. Obamacare provides all the benefits of a robust healthcare plan with free visits to the doctor, mental health services, hospitalization, and even acupuncture for little or no cost to the applicant when their annual household income is below the poverty line. But a family of four needs to make less than $40,000 in order to receive full benefits at low or no cost to them, and a cancer diagnosis didn’t seem to be enough reason to make an exception.
Out of frustration, I wrote to Governor Cuomo’s office and also to as many politicians as I could think of in the surrounding areas who had argued for health insurance for all and asked for their help getting us accepted into the NY State of Health marketplace.
A few weeks later, after multiple applications and phone calls, I heard from a representative of the “Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program of New York” that my husband had qualified for a special cancer treatment program available to those with certain cancers in New York State. This program helps patients with breast, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancers. He was the first to receive this, and he was scheduled for removal of his prostate gland in October of 2018.
Thankfully, our story has a happy ending. My husband is a cancer survivor and doing very well. We now work together in his business and were able to find an insurance option that worked for our family.
I am so grateful for the many people who I worked with to get this information and to those in the billing offices who offered us financial assistance through some of the local hospitals. Once again healthcare workers are my heroes. Here is a link that may help those looking for information on cancer coverage and programs available. https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/cancer/treatment/mctp/
It is a shame that this great country does not have an affordable healthcare system that covers everyone. Perhaps that will change someday. In the meantime, please know that there are programs out there. You just have to do the research and find answers mostly on your own. So, don’t hesitate to knock on doors, call and e-mail your representatives again and again. Persistence is the only way to get results!
Photo credit: National Cancer Institute
Marly is a Chilean American designer. She graduated from FIT Interior Design and has worked in the interiors and fashion Industry in NYC for many years. She began freelancing as a teen illustrator in the fashion industry for notables such as Valentino and Armani. She later designed handbags and accessories for companies such as Liz Claiborne and Ann Taylor Loft as well as Kipling USA. A world traveler, Marly has been to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo, Belgium, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Amsterdam, Finland and Stockholm where she finds inspiration for her creative work. Marly has designed residential projects, handbags, footwear and jewelry. Married 27 years with two grown children, an Australian Shepard named Jasmine and two cats she resides just outside NYC.