If I survive the cancer, can I survive the insurance companies?

     (<a href=Health care costs image courtesy of Shutterstock.com) " title="shutterstock_insurance_1200x675" width="640" height="360"/>

    (Health care costs image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    Who’da thunk that doing well in cancer treatment would give the insurers cause to deny my benefits? I didn’t even have time to celebrate the fact that my treatment was stabilizing the cancer when I learned that my disability insurer, Mutual of Omaha, had placed me on a target list.

    Here’s a glimpse into my world. Last week, Mutual of Omaha called me to say they were reviewing whether to continue my disability benefits. Can you imagine anything more stressful than to realize you’re being targeted to lose your income? After conferring with my oncologist, we decided he would send them a letter.

    He wrote, “In a nutshell, Ms. Block has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer to her liver and elsewhere, and will die from it.”

    Sounds pretty clear to me, but I ended up being forced to hire representation. I won the first round: Benefits will continue. My representative was informed, however, that they would review my case again in March. This is my life. I will continue to live in fear that my income will end as I also deal with the treatment and its side effects, try to stay positive (oh, the tyranny of positivity) and figure out how to live life to the fullest.

    Health care as commodity

    I have been told that a disability insurer has to put into reserve all possible benefits for you once a claim has been approved. This is quite a chunk of money, as they could conceivably pay benefits to me until I turn 65. So near the end of the year, standard practice is to review and place targeted individuals on a “non-compensatory track.” That’s their term, not mine. It removes the humanity from a pure business decision.

    If they are able to stop benefits, then that reserve immediately moves into the profit column. What a great way to create bonuses and incentivize stopping benefits.

    In my panicked state, I examined how I could get and keep a job. The company I worked for has downsized considerably and there is no guarantee they would have a place for me. Even if I could find another job elsewhere, my current policy would end with no option to renew when the cancer begins to grow again — as it inevitably will. Win for MoO; big loss for me.

    Would my new employer offer a similar disability plan? How long would I have to work before that policy kicked in? What happens if the cancer starts to grow before then?

    It’s not pretty inside my head right now. Panic and problem solving are ping ponging alongside the Obamacare debate. I cannot help but feel that we’re asking the wrong questions.

    When did America decide it was OK for health care to be a commodity? Isn’t health care a right? Who decides about our health care? Why are so many Americans frightened by our government making decisions? I’m not denying the existence of incompetence and red tape in the public sector. But is it really better that the one making the decisions stands to profit financially from denying my benefits?

    My dark side keeps joking that, if cancer doesn’t get me, insurers will.

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