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Health reform and mastectomy

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, May 24, 2013
Posted: 6 am ET

It's rare enough these days to see someone put their money where their mouth is, much less their breasts.

But that's exactly what Robyn Blumner did in the face of political opposition to health care reform.

Blumner, who writes wide-ranging op-eds for Florida's Tampa Bay Times, seized upon last week's media coverage of Angelina Jolie's preventive double mastectomy to tell her own much different story about the choices American women face due to our idiosyncratic health insurance system.

Like Jolie, Blumner opted to have a preventive double mastectomy in August 2011 after a small lump was found in her left breast. Unlike Jolie, her decision was not prompted by a BRCA1 gene mutation or family history of cancer.

Instead, Blumner was motivated by what she considered the tenuous state of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.

"For everyone except the mega-wealthy like a Hollywood star, having Jolie-like health care options depends on good, affordable health insurance," she writes. "And having access to that kind of coverage depends on reasonable and caring leaders in Washington."

Blumner's fear was not the anomaly in her breast, but rather the possibility that the opponents of health care reform might one day prevail.

"The ACA guarantees Americans access to comprehensive and affordable health insurance beginning in 2014. Without it, I could one day find myself uninsured. Breast cancer is just the kind of pre-existing condition that makes you uninsurable," she writes. "Having a double mastectomy would put me at less risk of bankruptcy from future medical bills by virtually eliminating the possibility of recurrence."

Blumner wasn't the only scribe inspired by Jolie's decision. Blogger Sara Tenenbein, whose "Me, Redone" blog involves health and wellness, underwent a prophylactic double mastectomy three years ago after being diagnosed with the BRCA1 mutation. She's a huge fan of an earlier health reform, the 1998 Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act.

"When it came to my surgeries and getting tested for the gene, all of that was under the umbrella of preventive care, so I was very lucky in that everything was covered," she says. "It's actually a federal law that if an insurance company covers a mastectomy, they have to cover all elements of reconstruction. When you think of it from a numbers perspective, it's actually a lot cheaper to have a mastectomy than to cover mammograms, MRIs and all these doctor appointments over a period of years."

Blumner says that where women's health is concerned, there's no separating the medical, the financial and the political.

"When we make calculated decisions about which breast cancer treatment to choose, like a House whip we're counting congressional votes alongside medical risk factors," she writes.

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Jay MacDonald is a Bankrate contributing editor and co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook," an e-book by Bankrate editors and reporters.

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2 Comments
Olen Hedgespeth
June 22, 2013 at 1:33 am

health and wellness should be our top priority so that we can live longer and have a good quality of life.`;.,

Take a look at the most current post on our blog site
http://wellnessdigest.coto

dennis cochardo
May 25, 2013 at 9:21 am

jay, very nice post regarding the caving in of 26 states who wanted to repeal obamacare from a bottom line standpoint.
however here is the hinge pin problem to this whole program. it is my understanding that this bill regulates how much money specialized doctors can make on a yearly basis. lets take neurosurgeons for example. if we tell this person they can only make X amount of money instead of what a free market will pay them how many neurosurgeons will there be in 10 years when they all have selected other career paths or have left medicine.
then the time will come when someone, perhaps one of your children will need a good surgeon and there arent any.
what are we supposed to tell the patients?????????? spread this out over cancer,heart and complex general surgery and we have a real problem.
we will drain our system of potential medical talent by regulation and over time we will pay a heavy price.
that is the hidden problem with this program along with everything else.
by the way,,,who do you think will pay the tab for all these uninsured people that the feds have promised to the states? can you afford 35-40% of your paycheck for this tab??
good luck with that....... this program needs to be revised so that the free enterprise system is not negated.