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September 23, 2009

The date, November, 2001. I had just resettled in LA after being laid off from job at following the dot com bubble burst. I had been making a decent salary at the job, but with no pay check coming in and the measly amount of income I was drawing from unemployment, the idea of using Intuit’s COBRA plan was just plain crazy. I simply couldn’t afford the payments.

Thankfully, I was a healthy 35-year old and Blue Cross/Blue Shield offered a good individual insurance policy that was significantly more affordable than the COBRA coverage I opted out of. I applied and was quickly accepted, which was a good thing because just two months later, things were about to change.

I knew something wasn’t quite right before that fateful night, but as a doctor’s kid, I’ve developed a healthy distaste of all things medical. I’m not a fan of doctors, hospitals, waiting rooms or shitty coffee so I did what any sane person would have done. I ignored the fact that something didn’t feel right. Thankfully, my girlfriend didn’t.

Of all the phrases a guy hates to hear in bed, the words “What’s that?” are probably near the top of the list. Nevertheless, when your significant other feels something unfamiliar while groping your junk, you should probably pay heed. Especially when what’s she’s grabbing feels a little bit too much like a marble than it should. So, being properly chastised, I did what I hated to do and made an appointment with a urologist at Cedar’s Sinai. Now, I’m no medical expert but even I knew that a lump on my testicle was probably not a good sign. So, after the poking, the prodding and the ultrasound, I wasn’t surprised when I heard the diagnosis. Testicular cancer.

The good thing about the disease, if there is such a thing, is that’s highly treatable. A quick surgery to remove the offending tumor (along with the testicle it inhabited) and a few rounds of chemotherapy to ensure there are no more bad cells floating around waiting to do more damage. Easy? Not particularly. Expensive? Like you wouldn’t believe. My chemo treatments lasted for nearly four months and consisted of three week rounds of treatment. In the first week, I’d spend about five hours a day, five days a week having a variety of drugs dumped into my system. Then, for the next two weeks, I’d spend about 45 minutes one day a week having a single drug administered. That one treatment alone cost nearly $5,000 a pop.

When all was said and done, I figure Blue Cross dropped close to $250,000 on my treatment, meaning they got the very short end of the stick on my policy. Good for me, bad for them. Now however, it looks like the shoe may be on the other foot.

It’s been just over a year since I left my last “real” job and, in that time, I’ve been happily (well, maybe not happily), paying my monthly $400 premium for my COBRA. So, imagine my dismay when I received a recent email saying my insurance company was changing its policy and that my coverage would end effective September 30th. So now, I’m back in the market for insurance only this time, I’m nearly 42 and I have one of those dreaded “pre-existing conditions” you hear so much about.

According to my doctors, I was officially “cured” of cancer just over two years after I finished chemo, but try telling that to an insurance company. They don’t really care what the doctors say. They’re more concerned with their bottom line and on how they can take in as much money as possible while paying out as little as possible on the other end. Which means I’m kind of up shit creek without a paddle.

I’ve applied for new Blue Cross coverage and am waiting to hear if I’m accepted. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath. I’m not sure what my next move will be if I – as I fully expect – my application is rejected. Of course, it would be nice if Congress got off its ass and actually did something about health care reform, but that’s as unlikely as my application getting approved. So, now I sit and wait. And hope I don’t need to see a doctor any time soon.

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