House Speaker John Boehner and his tea party friends shut down the U.S. government because of people like me. I am the mother of an insurance hog, someone who could have blown through his lifetime limit of health coverage by the time he was 14. My son has managed to survive despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, and he wears his preexisting condition like a Super Bowl ring.
Mason, now 16, was probably born with his brain tumor. We discovered it six years ago. Biopsies showed a slow-growing mass, which was the good news. The bad news was that the tumor could not be removed because it had grown around essential structures in his brain. Under the care of some of the country’s finest specialists, Mason had frequent scans. There was little we could do between tests but hope for the best. Like other children his age, Mason played basketball, argued with his siblings and avoided cleaning his bedroom. He managed to undergo chemotherapy for eight months without getting too sick. He insisted on finding ways to laugh, saying things like: “I have brain cancer. What’s your problem?”
It was an uneasy peace — until the tumor ruptured in December 2010, three years after his initial diagnosis, and Mason suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Mason spent most of eighth grade in the hospital. In the six months he was hospitalized, he spent 65 days in the pediatric intensive care unit. He underwent four brain surgeries. Halfway through his hospitalization, the Affordable Care Act was passed, alleviating lifetime limits on coverage and saving us from the financial abyss. Mason moved to a rehabilitation hospital where he was retaught the most basic skills — sitting up, eating and standing. We faithfully paid the premiums on the employer-sponsored plan through which our family is covered, along with the rest of our bills, thanking God and whoever else would listen for our good fortune to have coverage.
The biggest fear for families such as mine is that we will lose our health insurance and be rendered uninsurable because one of us has been sick. The Affordable Care Act does away with dreaded clauses barring preexisting conditions.