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Scenes from our profit-driven Health insurance Hell

First, a somewhat encouraging story of a young man fighting for his life and winning with a little help from his friends:

As reported by boingboing:

Arijit, 31, is graduate student in Arizona who was diagnosed about a year and a half ago with stage IV colon cancer. He endured multiple surgeries, and grueling rounds of chemotherapy. Then, in February, 2012, the cost of his treatment exceeded the lifetime limit on his graduate student health plan, which is managed by Aetna.

His coverage was terminated. His cancer was not.
— more –>>

Even though lifetime caps have been dropped for employee-sponsored plans by Obamacare, apparently the lifting of lifetime caps did not yet apply to student health care plans.

Without health care, Arijit launched a fund-raising site,, and started tweeting updates about his condition and thoughts about his predicament. A twitter conversation between Arijit, his friends and followers and Aetna ensued, which can be viewed in it’s entirety here: Arijit & Aetna

These exchanges are really interesting/inspiring, especially in the way Arijit and his friends so forcefully challenge the bland, corporate excuses emanating from Aetna – highly recommended reading. In the end, Aetna capitulated and paid Arijit’s medical costs:

“Congrats, Twitter hordes! @Aetna just agreed to cover the full extent of my bills. Every last penny. Thanks, @mtbert (Aetna CEO Mark T. Bertolini), for listening.”

I’m happy for Arijit, but as others pointed out in the twitter feed, it’s easy to imagine people out there in similar circumstances without an army of twitter followers to embarrass Aetna. Will Aetna help those people? And what of those who have needlessly suffered in the past?

Next, another story of a young person with cancer struggling with our health insurance system: Life, Interrupted: Medical Bills, Insurance and Uncertainty, by Suleika Jaquad via the NYT.

In two years, I’ll graduate from my parents’ insurance. What will I do about insurance then? Perhaps I’ll gain coverage through an employer — though holding a job seems like a tall task if I’m still in treatment. Isn’t it a contradiction that insurance is often tied to employment, but that the sick people who need it most are the ones who have the hardest time staying employed? If the Affordable Care Act remains in place, at least I won’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. That’s a huge victory, but what will the cost of that coverage be, and will I be able to afford it?

When I’m lying in bed at night, I often worry about how cancer may affect my future: my career, my relationships, my dreams. Sick people don’t plan on getting sick. We shouldn’t have the added worry that someday insurance coverage may not be there. Or that a medical crisis could become a financial one too.

Please read the comments to Suleika’s gripping article, especially the reader’s picks. There’s a lot of love and concern for the other out there. If one doesn’t come away with the sense that we’re all in this together I don’t know what to say.

We all know what needs to be done, but the chances of it happening anytime soon seem so slim. Perhaps sharing our stories will help – not only that, it just seems like the necessary thing to do. Rarely is this problem discussed in human terms in the MSM.

The point is we are all in this together and we don’t deserve this hell. Kudos to Arijit and Suleika for so articulately and passionately relating their stories, and best wishes to all those like them who are struggling and fighting with this nightmare.

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