Switching Employer Insurance Plans with Breast Cancer

Phyllis Johnson Health Guide
  • Yesterday was my birthday, a very busy day at work.  I would have liked to rush home after work to enjoy a few quiet moments before my husband and I went out to celebrate.  But I had another meeting—an insurance meeting.


    My employer is changing our health insurance options.  The employee contribution to the premium for our current policy will be significantly higher.  So to ease the budget burden, we now can also choose a less expensive plan with a higher deductible.  Yesterday was the day the insurance company representative came to explain the plans.


    To make the best financial decision in these kinds of cases, you have to be able to predict the future.  Will you continue with your current level of medical need?  Will you develop some new, expensive illness?  Or maybe you will have the good fortune to be healthier than usual, making a decision to go with the more comprehensive insurance plan seem like money wasted on unneeded services.

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    I found it ironic that I spent my birthday asking questions about coverage for prostheses and lymphedema treatment because yesterday was not only my birthday, but the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis.  Twelve years ago my husband and I went ahead with our planned birthday celebration, but our conversation was filled with “what if’s.”


    What if I had to quit the new job I had just accepted?  What would happen to our financial plans if I couldn’t work?  How would we cope with cancer treatment in a new community a thousand miles away from our support network?  I don’t think we verbalized the biggest “what if,” but I was well aware that in 1998 most inflammatory breast cancer patients died in less than three years.


    On my 49th birthday, I was in excellent health.  On my 50th birthday, I didn’t know if I would live to see my 51st.   Cancer takes away our certainty that life will continue in its same old rut.  Twelve years later, I no longer make assumptions about my health or what will happen in the future.


    Imagine that a month ago a person traveling to Europe said, “I’m really worried about getting back on time for my wedding.  A volcano might erupt and disrupt air travel.  I could get stuck over there.”  How absurd and paranoid that would have sounded!  This morning’s local news was about a bride who is hoping that her groom will arrive in time for their Saturday wedding.


    Cancer is the erupting volcano in our lives.  Even after the lava flows stop, the landscape of our life is changed forever.  At the time, it seems all bad, but volcanic soil is rich soil that eventually grows rich crops.  Cancer has made my family and I aware of every precious moment.  Growing old is now a good thing, not a burden.  Twelve years ago I was afraid I would never get a chance to grow old.


    Last night at dinner, one of the subjects of conversation was the insurance plan decision.  Once again we were discussing “what if’s” over dinner, but the tone was completely different than the “what if’s” of twelve years ago. 


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    Whatever volcanoes might erupt in my life in the future, I have had the gift of twelve years.  I have taught almost a thousand students I hadn’t yet met twelve years ago.  I have attended graduations and weddings that I was afraid I might miss.  I have held a new grandbaby.  Life is good.

Published On: April 21, 2010