Out of the 530,000 Americans who are forced to declare bankruptcy every year, two-thirds are due to medical costs.
I was almost one of them.
My story is a portrait of how a comfortable middle-class family can get completely wiped out by America's high-cost health care system. And my story shows why it's so important that Gov.
I am a sixth-generation Coloradan. My great-grandfather worked on the transcontinental railroad and helped to build
And within a few short years, it was all gone.
My father was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was 67; even with Medicare and supplemental private insurance, the out-of-pocket costs were out of control. We spent thousands of dollars every month for prescription drugs, chemo treatment and home health care.
As his last living relative, I was the only one who could care for him, and the only one who could sit on the phone arguing with providers and insurance companies, so I was forced to quit my job of 20+ years as a wildlife biologist -- a job I loved. So now I had a sick father, no income, and no health coverage for myself.
We liquidated everything to pay for his treatment. I still remember feeling sick when I was told his grave plot would have to be repossessed.
In cruelly ironic fashion, my father finally qualified for hospice the day before he passed away.
And then I got cancer.
My new job paid me significantly less and did not offer health care benefits, so I was uninsured. This was before the Affordable Care Act so I had few options. If I had regular checkups -- which were made free by the ACA / Obamacare -- doctors might have caught the cancer earlier.
I scraped together enough money to pay for a treatment plan out of pocket. I had to undergo an excruciating procedure without local anesthesia and as a result, suffered life-threatening complications which ended up costing even more.
I still cannot afford coverage, despite working a full-time job.
Our system is desperately broken. It can be fixed, but it takes hard work and courage to stand up to the insurance companies, the hospitals, the drug companies and their lobbyists.
Legislation to end surprise out-of-network billing will be a game-changer and will stop families from getting blindsided by bills.
And at long last, our state is developing an affordable public option that will not only help me get covered but will help drive down the price of health care for all through more competition.
I'm hopeful that next session, lawmakers will be able to agree on a policy prescription that would have changed the course of my life for the better: paid family leave. I would be in a much different financial situation today if I was able to take a paid leave of absence from my wildlife biologist job to care for my sick father.
Even after all of this, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones because I survived. There are plenty who don't or who go broke trying.
In the richest country in the world, no one should lose their life savings because they are unlucky enough to get sick. No one should die because they can't get the care they need, and no one should be forced to quit their job to care for a sick family member.
(c)2019 the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.)
Visit the Daily Times-Call (Longmont, Colo.) at www.timescall.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.