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My 14 Year Old Son Has Brain Cancer -- Without Obamacare, We May Have Been Dropped By Our Insurance Company

My then 13-year-old son would have reached his lifetime limit of health insurance had such limits not been eliminated by Obamacare on April 1, 2011.

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The insurance company rationed out Mason’s rehab approvals two weeks at a time. To meet their standards, Mason had to strike the balance between needing ongoing therapy and showing continued progress. If he stopped getting better, the insurance company would stop paying for his therapy, which presents a problem because brain injury patients typically hit plateaus in their recovery. I prayed daily for the faceless insurance company doctors who parsed out Mason’s approvals, wishing them insight and compassion.

A rehab hospital is not the place to visit if you want to pretend that awful things can’t happen to blameless people. In addition to stroke victims of all ages, there was a 30-year-old woman who was rear-ended at high speed on an interstate highway. Her mother brought her 2-month-old baby to visit whenever she could, though the young woman stared ahead her eyes not seeming to focus. There was a naval officer who suffered oxygen deprivation due to an illness he suffered on a ship somewhere in the Pacific. His mother brought me strawberries when she came to visit one Saturday. Then there were two other teenage boys, like Mason, with different varieties of brain tumors. One didn’t survive his stay, though I’m not sure what happened. The other walked out of the rehab to the cheers of his therapists and all the rest of us.

We never saw congresswoman Giffords, though I found the presence of the Secret Service reassuring. Nancy Pelosi toured the gym one afternoon when Mason was having physical therapy. I introduced myself. She smiled and complimented my beautiful boy who was walking in a harness mechanism. I meant to thank her for the healthcare bill, but it was too disorienting speaking to someone I usually watch on CNN. John Boehner didn’t stop by, maybe it was too much, seeing all these folks flaunting their preexisting conditions, exceeding their lifetime insurance limits with such brazen determination to pull themselves upright again.

P.S. Mason is back in school, finishing 8th grade. He is walking, talking and working out at the gym three times a week. He received an A- on his paper on “Of Mice and Men.”

Janine is a San Francisco Bay Area writer. She is currently working on a collection of essays about surviving her son's brain tumor and the odd reality that comes with a diagnosis of childhood cancer.

 
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