In 2008 my husband and I could not afford the employee portion of the premium for the healthcare policy offered by his employer, as it was over $1,000 per month (which was close to what we were paying for our mortgage at the time), but our three children (an infant, a toddler and a third-grader) were covered under the Illinois' All Kids program. We contacted every insurance carrier in our area to purchase a catastrophic policy for ourselves, but not a single one would sell us coverage. Not one. They cited my history of endometriosis and gallbladder removal when I was a teenager as preexisting conditions even though I was perfectly healthy now.
I managed to stay healthy until July of that year, when I came down with what I was pretty sure were kidney stones—the pain was excruciating. I googled kidney stones and learned that once you passed them it was relatively safe and you did not need a doctor. Well, I was concerned anyway and decided I wanted to get a professional medical opinion and would just pay cash for a visit and if needed, I would buy any necesssary medication.
I began calling around to local doctors specializing in internal medicine and the first question I was asked, every single time, without fail, was if I had insurance. When I said no, every doctor's office refused to see me. Even though I said I had cash. NO ONE would see me. After a week I gave up and felt better anyway. Then, a few days later I started to experience flu-like symptoms. I became very sick, very fast. I had a high fever, above 102 degrees farenheit, and I could not break it. I endured chills so strong that my teeth were chattering, I was shaking uncontrollably, and could not move. At one point I thought I was seizing. I even got in the shower, turned it as hot as it would get and still couldn't warm up. This went on for days.
Looking back, I know I should've gone to the emergency room immediately. But at the time I thought I had the flu and that it would pass if I kept taking over-the-counter medications and tried to rest. Once I started throwing up and couldn't keep anything down—not even a sip of water—I knew I had to get some kind of medical help. I finally found a nurses' group in one of the nearby "low income" areas of my city, who saw patients based on income and/or lack of health insurance. At this point I wasn't even able to drive so my husband had no choice but to leave work and take me on his lunch break, but not without a fight with his employer to use his lunch break for a personal "errand" to get his sick wife to a doctor.
When we arrived I filled out the paperwork and when the nurse practitioner looked at that and then saw my condition, she told my husband that she thought my kidneys could be septic and if he did not take me to the hospital immediately she would call an ambulance and the police herself. It was that serious.
We went straight to the hospital, and it turned out I had a severe kidney infection and was probably hours—at most a day—away from septic kidneys. The doctors in the hospital told me I was very lucky I came in when I did because if the infection had spread to my bloodstream I could have required kidney dialysis for the rest of my life, a kidney transplant or I could have died.
I had to stay in the hospital on IVs, take potassium pills, and have my fever broken repeatedly. I was finally released the day before my baby's 1st birthday and was required to take various expensive prescription medications for four weeks. While my kidney infection finally healed and thankfully I had no lasting effects from it, I did develop bronchial-pneumonia shortly after returning home. The doctors believed it stemmed from a combination of the hospital stay along with a lowered immune system. This necessitated more rounds of expensive drug therapy and medical visits. We had to pay up-front and out of pocket for all of these costs and we did not get a deal for paying cash—all because no insurance company would let us buy insurance and no doctor would see me during the early stages of my illness without it.
And just to add salt to the wounds I was already suffering, my husband was fired the same day that he took me to the hospital, on the grounds that he'd "missed work," and we ended up somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 grand in debt.
The Patient Protection Act would've protected us from all of that. In all likelihood we would have been able to afford our employer provided policy because it probably would not have been so expensive. Even if costs were not reduced and we could not afford our employer provided plan, the Patient Protection Act would most certainly have protected us from all of the companies who excluded us based on my previous health history. One of the stipulations of the PPA is that insurance companies are not allowed to deny coverage for preexisting conditions. We could have purchased a high deductible plan and then I would've been able to get in to see a doctor when I initially felt ill.
No one should have to come that close to losing their life over an easily treatable illness because they had pre-existing conditions. This was one of the many for-profit insurance company wrongs that the Patient Protection Act righted.