From the desk: April 19, 2011

The year 2000 was the last of my childhood. I was 10 at the time and my sister, Paige, was 14. The doctor called on a suffocating July day to tell us she had cancer.

What followed were countless nights holding back tears as I wearily consumed another meal of lasagna provided by friends, days sitting in her hospital room munching on Mr. Goodbars while she threw them up into a yellow bucket, holidays spent decorating the house as well as any fifth grader could on her own and 14 months of watching my sister battle for her life.

My sister survived. I survived. My family survived.

We were blessed to have insurance that covered most of the cost of her treatments, but the same can’t be said for many Americans. Many uninsured Americans will wait until their cancer has progressed to a more progressed stage to seek treatment. Latter stages of cancer usually require more intense treatment — treatments that are more expensive.

According to data from the American Cancer Society, approximately 28 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 years and 10 percent of children had no health insurance coverage.

More than 10,000 children younger than 14 are diagnosed with cancer each year. For these children, cancer will never be a distant memory of their childhood. According to the American Cancer Society, survivors of childhood cancer may experience treatment-related side effects, which include organ malfunction, secondary cancers and cognitive impairments.

I was recently invited to participate in a conference call with the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the Affordable Care Act on its one-year anniversary. Seniors from across the country were asked to phone in, as we will be the first graduating class to reap the benefits of the Act.

Under the Affordable Care Act, you can now add or keep your college graduating children on your health insurance policy until they turn 26 years old. Before the Act was passed in Congress, children as young as 19 could be removed from their parent’s health care plans unless they were full time students.

According to, in 45 states across the country, insurance companies can discriminate against people based on their pre-existing conditions when they try to purchase health insurance directly from insurance companies in the individual insurance market. Insurers can deny them coverage, charge higher premiums or refuse to cover that particular medical condition.

I know that writing about this may very well lead to argumentative comments and the furrowed brows of readers, but I would like to point out that I am not advocating the bill in its entirety, only this part of the reform. I do not boast any credentials that could qualify me as an expert on the subject — I am merely a 21-year-old that has seen the stress that may accompany a cancer survivor facing a lack of insurance coverage.

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