A week and a half ago, my friend and his wife went in for full physicals. This was the first time in 10 years they’d done this. Why not sooner? Because they’re both healthy and fit, and because they’ve been keeping a close eye on their medical expenses due to being self-insured for years — about 10 years, actually, since they closed their business. Their plan cost them about $900 a month, with a $15,000 annual deductible. Which has meant that they’ve been spending about $20,000 out of pocket every year on health insurance and medical expenses. Or, over those 10 years, about $200,000.
When you pay this way, they tell me, you really see what medical expenses cost. At one point, one of them went in for a relatively minor procedure, one that had them visiting the hospital for maybe two hours, and seeing a doctor for less than half an hour. Total bill: $7600. Which they paid out of pocket. With costs like that, you start to see why they’ve worked to keep their medical expenses as low as possible.
But now, newly insured under the Affordable Care Act (which, compared to the $20,000 or more a year they had been spending, is living up to its name), they were covered for full health exams. So they went in. And found out that my friend has cancer. One large-ish tumor that was classified as either a Stage 3 or a Stage 4 carcinoma, along with two smaller tumors. When he told me this late last week, it felt like the world had caved in on me; if it felt that way to me, I definitely cannot grasp how it felt to him and to his wife.
I didn’t post this until today because today was his surgery, and it sounds like everything went fine. I expected it to go well — I spent some time reading up on the kind of cancer he has, and checked in with some professionals about it — and even told him yesterday over the phone that while I care about him, I wasn’t worried about him, because the odds of his success were so very great, and that I was certain we’d have another 30 or 40 years to this great friendship because the statistics were good, and also because I need those years and am counting on them. Nevertheless, I was expecting a call from his wife early afternoon today, but as the day wore on and still I hadn’t heard anything I felt a thick dull heaviness descend upon me. Finally, at 7:15 in the evening, she called to tell me everything had gone right.
This is the story of only one of three close friends I have who are fighting cancer. I have another friend who just beat it. The odds are almost 50-50 that you and I will get it too. These other friends, and I, have robust health-insurance plans — but now I’m thinking about the many, many friends I have who in the past couple of months have gratefully posted on Facebook that now, finally, they have health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. They were unemployed, or self-employed, and they never could have afforded even the high-deductible plan my friends had. Under the old system they would have just died, or they would have gone to the hospital and been bankrupted. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and thanks to the president who was determined to make it happen, they’re covered.
As my friend’s wife said to me yesterday about my friend, “Basically, Obamacare saved his life.”