My mom was diagnosed in October with stage three colon cancer. Within a week, she was undergoing lifesaving surgery in one of Atlanta’s top hospitals. She was fortunate have access to care in an American hospital. The colon cancer survival rate in the United States is among the highest in the world.
According to a study quoted on Web MD, the United States, Japan and France have the highest survival rates among 31 ranked countries for four types of cancer including cancer of the colon. In spite of the fact that Obamacare was yet to come, the United States ranked at the top for survivability of all four types of cancer.
This may be because of the ready availability of health care in the U.S. In 2002, a Commonwealth Fund study cited in Politifact that showed that only five percent of Americans reported waits of longer than four months for surgery compared to 23 to 38 percent in the other nations ranked, all of which had government health insurance programs. The wait time for my mom was only a matter of days. With the cancer already at stage three and in her lymph nodes, waiting longer might well have cost her life.
Scant weeks after my mom’s surgery, my wife was found to have precancerous cells in her cervix. A hysterectomy was scheduled for about four months away. When a subsequent biopsy revealed that the cells had progressed to stage one cancer, the surgery was moved up to early January, at the time less than a month away.
At the same time that my wife was waiting for her surgery, I read how Canadian women were dying while waiting for the same operation. Global Montreal reported that the wait times for Quebec women with similar cancers were three times as long as government benchmarks. Instead of less than a month, Quebec women often had to wait three months for their surgery. Thousands had to wait as long as six months. The long wait times led some patients to forego their free government health care to seek treatment at private clinics.
“This should not happen,” Lucy Gilbert, director of gynecological oncology at McGill University Health Centre, told Global Montreal. “No matter how good your surgery is, no matter how good your chemotherapy is, if you delay the surgery there could be a problem. The cancer grows. The cancer spreads.”
In my wife’s case, the hysterectomy removed the entire cancer, which had been caught at an early stage. With an aggressive cancer such as this, especially one that is detected late, as ovarian cancer often is, a delay of three to six months can be a death sentence for the patient.
My final recent brush with cancer was my own colonoscopy. After my mom’s experience with colon cancer, my doctor recommended that I be screened. The only delay to my colonoscopy was working around my busy schedule. I could have had my screening two days after my initial consultation if I could have worked it in.
The procedure was painless. When people tell you that the preparation is the worst part, believe it, but even this isn’t any worse than a case of bad diarrhea.
In my case, it was worth the hassle. When I woke up after the procedure, the doctor told me that they had removed two polyps from my colon. A phone call several days later informed me that one of the polyps was benign but that the other likely would have become cancerous. Thank you, Dr. Sanford and thank you, mom!
The lesson to be learned here is that important health tests and procedures should not be delayed. In the best of times, while you delay a procedure, the cancer inside of you could be growing and metastasizing. Cancer is best treated early before it has a chance to spread.
Now there is another reason not to delay taking charge of your health. The Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” became law in 2010, but it has not been implemented fully. Many aspects of the law will become effective in 2014 according to Healthcare.gov. In 2015, the site ominously promises that physician pay will be “based on value not volume.”
This column and many other conservative voices have warned that the centralized control of health care will inevitably lead to shortages, rationing, and long wait times. Nevertheless, President Obama’s reelection victory was the death knell for any chance to repeal or reform the law in a meaningful way before it is implemented.
Obamacare will soon be a reality for all Americans. The precise effects of the law are still largely uncertain and controversial, but early indications are that they will not be good. This week health insurance companies warned that premiums for individuals and small businesses could increase by more than double their current rate. The country already faces a shortage of doctors and this will likely be made worse by the influx of insured patients under Obamacare. This is typically the result of an artificial increase in demand for a product.
No one can know how Obamacare would have impacted my mom or my wife, but there is no doubt in my mind that if the law had been in full effect, there would have been a much greater chance that I would have lost both my mother and my wife to cancer in 2013. For me, that is reason enough to fight for the law’s reform and eventual repeal. Repealing Obamacare is vital to save lives that might otherwise be lost while patients sit waiting for vital surgeries or treatments.
Obamacare won’t crash the American health care system overnight, but it is likely that it will become increasingly difficult to see a doctor or get necessary medical care in a timely manner. The safest course of action is to take charge of your health and get any necessary medical tests or procedures done before the law can take effect.
Originally published on Examiner.com: