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Bernadette Segura's picture

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“I’m sorry ma’am, the hospitals only have to provide care to you in emergency circumstances. They don’t have to provide you with anything else.”

It’s been two years since the ACA became law. Since then, we’ve heard grumbles from the left, the right and everywhere in between. Last year I wrote about how I wished universal health care had existed when I sustained an injury while an uninsured student. I still believe that universal health care is a good thing for Americans. I believe that universal health care is a good thing for Latinos. As a legal aid attorney in Texas, I’ve had the unfortunate job of explaining to three different American women, diagnosed with cancer, that they did not qualify for medicaid or any medical treatment until their cancer was terminal and their death was imminent.

While it is required that hospitals treat people, regardless of their ability to pay, in emergency circumstances, it is not required that hospitals treat people with merely a diagnosis of cancer. These unfortunate cancer victims are able to get a free cancer screening and then left to rot until the cancer is terminal and their lives are in imminent danger -- then they are able to receive “emergency” cancer treatments and palliative care.

Many of them are not eligible for disability benefits at first, because the cancer has not progressed to a point where they are unable to work. They must continue on in their lives and attempt to work, live and play while suffering from cancer. I recently had one such client lose her battle with cancer while waiting on her appeal to Social Security. I can’t face her family because I don’t want to explain that Texas and the United States don’t value treating sick people before they are about to die and that there is only a value in treating a sick person on the verge of death.

The Affordable Care Act will change this. The Affordable Care Act created an avenue for cancer victims to obtain health insurance despite their pre-existing condition. A person diagnosed with cancer, under the ACA, will be able to find health insurance to help them receive treatment to hopefully kill the cancer before it progresses. Further, the ACA will ban health providers from denying care after a person reaches a spending ceiling set by the health insurance company. Can you imagine? There will be no lifetime spending limits for cancer patients! Finally, the ACA will assure patients that a health insurance company cannot drop them when they become sick. Yes, shockingly it is true. Insurance companies before the ACA were allowed to drop patients when they became severely sick.

I for one, welcome this great step forward for cancer victims and every potential cancer victim in the United States.

Bernadette Segura is a MomsRising/Mamá member in El Paso, Texas.

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