Wednesday, April 13, 2011
My Heart Surgery
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.
Some provisions have already taken effect. Most notably, I am now able to stay under my parents’ insurance policy until I am 26 years old. However, it is not until 2014 that insurance companies will be entirely prohibited from refusing to sell coverage or renew policies because of an individual’s pre-existing condition.
I was reminded of this current discriminatory policy still in place after I underwent minor heart surgery last Friday. Although I eat very healthy and stay very active, my annual visit to my primary care physician revealed I was born with something called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
According to the American Heart Association , “WPW” is a heart condition in which there is an extra electrical pathway in the heart, resulting in episodes of rapid heart rate and, ultimately, can lead to cardiac arrest. Where a normal heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute, it was not uncommon for mine to escalate to 250 beats per minute or greater.
On Friday, I underwent a surgical procedure known as a catheter ablation, which involves inserting a tube (catheter) into an artery through a small cut near the groin up to the heart area. When the tip reaches the heart, the small area that is causing the fast heart rate is destroyed using a special type of energy called radiofrequency. Although there were a few complications, I did not need open heart surgery which is a true blessing!
Soon after my surgery, however, we received a “friendly” call from our health insurance provider stating that I now have a pre-existing condition (here we go again). This means that, aside from our inability to change insurance companies, we cannot even change insurance plans WITHIN the same company. Luckily, we did not mention that I am also a cancer survivor; otherwise they would have dropped our coverage soon after dropping our call!
With the 2012 presidential election unfolding, Republican leaders are reigniting the debate over healthcare reform, threatening to undo whatever progress we have made thus far. But if there is one thing that I have learned through my experience with cancer and my heart condition, it is this:
We can debate politics. We can debate immigration, energy, the economy, and even war. But what we cannot, and should not, debate over is people’s lives.
My family and I have suffered enough! Yet, instead of focusing on my recovery, we are only able to focus (and worry) about the exorbitant, and continually rising, costs of healthcare because I, once again, have another pre-existing condition.
Although we are fortunate enough to be able to pay our medical bills, how long will this last? What will happen if doctors find yet another thing wrong with me? And what of the millions in this country who are not as lucky, financially or medically, as I am? What will become of them?
So here’s to hoping that the Affordable Care Act isn’t repealed and is allowed to run its full course.
But until then, we better hope no one gets sick.
Posted by Ashwani Jain