Cancer patient loses insurance because of Obamacare

Edie Littlefield Sundby

If you listen to President Barack Obama and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the fact that millions people will lose their health insurance coverage will be forced to buy a plan is not a big deal.

After all, we’re only talking about 5% of the American public, as both Obama and Carney have put it. That’s faceless statistic that has little meaning to administration officials, politicians, and bureaucrats who’ve spent more than four years crafting the law and corresponding mandates and regulations.

But for many Americans, the changes they’re seeing in their health insurance coverage has very real consequences. In the case of Edie Littlefield Sundby, a stage-4 cancer patient, what Obamacare has done to her coverage could come at the expense of her life.

“Everyone now is clamoring about Affordable Care Act winners and losers. I am one of the losers,” wrote Sundby in an op-ed published last weekend at the Wall Street Journal.

“My grievance is not political; all my energies are directed to enjoying life and staying alive, and I have no time for politics. For almost seven years I have fought and survived stage-4 gallbladder cancer, with a five-year survival rate of less than 2% after diagnosis. I am a determined fighter and extremely lucky,” she continued. “But this luck may have just run out: My affordable, lifesaving medical insurance policy has been canceled effective Dec. 31.”

Sundby, who received notice of cancellation of her existing coverage in January, was happy with her insurance company, UnitedHealthcare, writing complimentary of their responsiveness to her condition and the availability of the claims office.

She also explained that the health insurance plans offered through California’s Obamacare health insurance exchange are not only “40% to 50% more” than her current plan have have “impaired benefits,” but would also come at the cost of the doctors who have worked so diligently to keep her alive.

“You would think it would be simple to find a health-exchange plan that allows me, living in San Diego, to continue to see my primary oncologist at Stanford University and my primary care doctors at the University of California, San Diego. Not so,” Sundby noted.

“UCSD has agreed to accept only one Covered California plan—a very restrictive Anthem EPO Plan. EPO stands for exclusive provider organization, which means the plan has a small network of doctors and facilities and no out-of-network coverage (as in a preferred-provider organization plan) except for emergencies,” she explained. “Stanford accepts an Anthem PPO plan but it is not available for purchase in San Diego (only Anthem HMO and EPO plans are available in San Diego).”

“So if I go with a health-exchange plan, I must choose between Stanford and UCSD. Stanford has kept me alive—but UCSD has provided emergency and local treatment support during wretched periods of this disease, and it is where my primary-care doctors are,” she added.

What’s the White House’s response to this story? Dan Pfeiffer, chief strategist for President Obama, pointed to a story via Twitter by a Leftist blog blaming the insurance company for canceling Sundby’s health insurance and claiming that they had nefarious motives for doing so.

This is a point of which Sundby is aware, and she actually addresses it in the WSJ Live interview that accompanied her editorial.

UnitedHealthcare’s exit from California’s individual health insurance market is, ultimately, irrelevant, for two reasons. First, the decision the insurance company made is directly related to Obamacare, whether the White House or anyone else wants to admit it.

Secondly, if the company had stayed in the market, any change in Sundby’s plan may have lost of “grandfathered” status under Obamacare’s very strict rules — rules, by the way, that Senate Democrats approved. She, quite possibly, would be in the very same predicament, one way or another.

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