In America, a cancer diagnosis can also bring financial devastation, as patients report incurring thousands in medical debt. Yet for Jill Sbarboro of Illinois, ACA protections have ensured she will always have health insurance in the face of high treatment costs.
The ACA has basically been my life support to know, if I lose my insurance, there is something out there for me. Getting rid of the lifetime maximums and protecting those with preexisting conditions has been hugely beneficial to me.
In 2014, Jill Sbarboro was diagnosed with cervical cancer and beat it. Fortunately, since the ACA had enshrined protections for preexisting conditions, Jill could still access health care through her husband’s employer-provided plan despite her prior cancer diagnosis. In 2016, Jill went back to school so she could change careers and get a job that would provide her with health insurance. Jill’s husband hoped to retire soon, meaning she would lose access to health care through his employer. But soon after Jill graduated, she was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type of breast cancer. As Jill began treatment, she couldn’t work and relied on her husband’s employer-provided plan for health care.
Jill Sbarboro is pictured in January 2023. (Photo credit: Jill Sbarboro)
Although Jill is still accessing health care through her husband’s employer, she is relieved that the ACA exists, as it would be her only way to access health care if she were to lose her husband’s health insurance. Additionally, the ACA eliminated lifetime maximum benefits, which limited how much treatment an insurance plan would cover over the course of one’s life—often hurting cancer patients, whose treatment costs are exorbitantly high, and leaving many patients with mountains of medical debt. Without the ACA’s elimination of lifetime maximums, Jill would have exceeded her lifetime maximum benefits a year ago and would have had to pay out of pocket for all of her breast cancer treatment.
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