How Health Care Reform Affects Chronic Illness Sufferers

Mandy Crest Health Guide
  • Major health care reform will begin in 2009! It has to. 

    As we welcome in the new year, the inevitable “premium explanation” notices have arrived in our mailbox and the news is not good. Two middle-aged people on individual insurance policies, one with multiple sclerosis... you can just imagine the grim result.

    Increased premiums, outrageous deductibles, and “tier 4” medication may force us to make some very difficult choices in 2009. Choices with far-reaching consequences. For people like us, and perhaps you, the need for major health care reform has grown urgent.

    It is unconscionable that our health care system punishes people who have the misfortune of having a chronic illness like multiple sclerosis. Sure, you can have health insurance -- as long as you don't really need it. Lose your job -- lose your group coverage. COBRA will only take you so far and at great expense. Life after COBRA, when you have a chronic illness, is a frightening place indeed.

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    My story is not atypical. Once MS took hold, I was no longer able to work a full 40-hour week. Not quite disabled, I continue to work part time. The loss of group coverage, and my inability to qualify for a group, has been the biggest source of stress involving MS.

    The physical symptoms are what they are. You do the best you can, following medical advice, and choosing one of the available medications in an effort to stave off permanent disability. You accept what you have and you work with it.

    Unfortunately, the financial aspects of living with a chronic illness are far more complicated. You may have worked hard all your life... paying your taxes, and pulling your weight... but that counts for little when the chips are down.

    The economy is under attack on multiple fronts, and affordable health care is a monumental part of the problem. What will happen to the growing numbers of unemployed? Many will be unable to afford to elect COBRA coverage at all, and those with pre-existing conditions will be locked out of individual coverage as well. The devastating effects of neglected health care cannot be quantified.

    Hope and change are powerful themes running through our nation's headlines right now. One of the most important changes we can make is how we treat our fellow citizens when illness strikes.


    Hope. Change. We've got an awful lot riding on 2009.

    Additional Resources: -- Share Your Story

    Understanding COBRA (US Dept. of Labor)

    Understanding HIPAA (US Dept. of Human & Health Services)

    State Health Facts

    Guide to Health Care and Insurance (The Health Central Network)

Published On: December 28, 2008