What I Am Thankful For In 2018

I became uninsurable on April 11, 1991. It was my 35th birthday, and for a not-so-great birthday present, I went into an MRI to check my brain for a series of vague neurologic symptoms. I climbed out with a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Although I remained thankfully- miraculously- asymptomatic all these 27 years since- I also remained uninsurable.

That is until January 1, 2014- the day protections for people with preexisting conditions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) kicked in.

What am I thankful for in 2018? The insurance protections for people like me survived the Mid-Term elections.

That is only one health care outcome that pleases me about our elections last month. Interested in what else has me smiling this Thanksgiving?

1. Protections for People with Preexisting Conditions Continue

As many of you know from your own pre-Obamacare experiences- there is nothing quite like hearing you are uninsurable.

It is a message of despair.

In the middle of fighting your disease, accident or change in health status a vast corporate entity runs your numbers, assesses your chances and tells you that you are not worth the risk of underwriting.

It is as the antithesis of hope.

The insurance industry does not stop with denying you health care coverage. Attempting to purchase other types of policies result in denials with similar implicit messages, such as a bar on life insurance (“You are going to die”) or long-term care coverage (“You will end your life under extreme disability in a long-term care facility away from your loved ones.”)

Being told you are uninsurable is just so personal.

There are, of course, significant financial implications to being uninsurable. The projected costs of your condition are catastrophic for most- to say nothing of the immunizations, acute illnesses, prescriptions and other life events unrelated to your disqualifying illness (like having a baby) that you will encounter with no insurance assistance.

I am relieved the American public recognizes how important insurance is for those with preexisting conditions. (In June 66% of voters said this issue was the most important- or very important- to their vote.)

Most of all- I am thankful no one will get rejected by an insurance company again.*

2. 350,000 Americans Gained Insurance

Three states voted to Expand Medicaid on November 6th:

  • Utah = 126,000 people in Utah became newly-eligible for Medicaid coverage
  • Nebraska = 90,000 people in Nebraska will join the Medicaid ranks
  • Idaho = 62,000 Idaho adults gained access to the state-federal health insurance program

To those three wins, we also have to add Maine, which voted to Expand Medicaid in 2017- but the 70,000 newly eligible people have yet to obtain that coverage. The obstacle has been Maine Governor Paul LePage, who is “done with politics and headed to Florida” [quote]. The newly elected Democrat Janet Mills (the first woman Governor of Maine) will now follow the public’s choice.

As a person who treasures my own insurance (and insurability) how could I not be thankful for close to 350,000 more people in America who will know the security of having a financial partner in their own health care challenges?

3. Marijuana had a Big Night

Look at these numbers:

  • Michigan became the 10th state (+ DC) to allow “adults to buy and possess marijuana in small amounts for recreational use” [quote]
  • Missouri and Utah brought the list of states allowing medical marijuana up to 33

I am not celebrating the expansion of marijuana due to any personal habit or proclivity- I am thankful for an election that was another victory for voters and state rights.

Most importantly- I am thankful that is appears we can finally (after 32 years) put our legislative time and attention on more important health care issues!

4. Turn Out and Passion about Health Care

Health care was the big issue this election season.

It can be frustrating to get the American public invested in health care as a political or ideological issue.

The 2018 Mid-Term election turned that frustration on its head!

Even if we don’t agree that the interest in health care is an exciting evolution of the American electorate-I should think all of us can be Thankful this season for the voter turn-out November 6th.

“An estimated 113 million people participated in the 2018 midterm elections, making this the first midterm in history to exceed over 100 million votes, with 49 percent of eligible voters participating in the election.” [quote]

That makes me very grateful- it also makes me hopeful we will continue to see gains in future elections, particularly given the passion and participation of the Millennial and Gen-Y generations.

5. We Voted For a Split Government

On November 6th America went to the polls and split Congress.

I am sure that people of all political persuasions are eye-rolling as they read this.

But yes- I like the outcome of 2018. Not across the board mind you- there are things that need to be done in our country tomorrow if not today. But for Health Care I am fairly pleased with the election results.

It is a mess now- and promises to be a mess through to the 2020 election.

The House will be run and locked down on a left-leaning agenda- the Senate will be equally insistent on meeting the priorities of the right.

It is very possible Congress will not be able to pass any legislation related to health care at all.

That could be a relief.

But what most intrigues me is that nothing will get done without bipartisan consensus.

Bipartisanship on an issue as critical as the future of health care in America would make me the most thankful of all.

Wishing you & yours a joyful Thanksgiving season!


Want to Know More?

*As I celebrate the continuation of the protections for people with preexisting conditions, I look over my left shoulder to Fort Worth and the current suit involving 20 states that want to invalidate all of the Affordable Care Act, including those preexisting protections.

For more information on that challenge, I discussed this case, its history, and the reaction of both the Trump Administration and public in Fontenotes No. 65 in October.