My Pre-existing Condition

A blog post by Jillian Cardillo

I was 18 when I was diagnosed with my first "pre-existing" condition. After years of appointments, blood tests, and no one being able to figure out what was wrong with me, an ultrasound and a good endocrinologist gave me the diagnosis: an endocrine disorder that put me at high risk for diabetes and all the complications that come along with it.

Treatment was simple enough: eat better, exercise more, take birth control pills and get blood tests every year. No big deal...unless there was no way to pay for the birth control and the blood tests.

This was 2003, and I was living in Florida. A few months after my diagnosis, I did go with out insurance for a few months, because I had to drop a class at college and wasn't covered under my parents' insurance since I wasn't a "full time student." I was 22 when I was diagnosed with my second pre-existing condition. I had been struggling to breathe for a few days, and a fellow student called an ambulance. When the paramedics got to me, they told me that I was having a major asthma attack and could have died if I had waited just an hour more for treatment.

I was a senior in college, in Massachusetts at this point, and I was covered on my parents' plan again. Everything was fine, despite having two pre-existing medical conditions. I would get a good job out of college, have insurance and not have to worry.

But reality has a way of getting in the way of the plans we make.

I graduated in 2008 - the year you might remember as the one where the economy crashed. I had no job at graduation. No employer-provided insurance. I was lucky, though: I lived in Massachusetts. I could stay on my parents' plan until 26. And I did.

I went to grad school, because surely I would get a job with a Master's. But I didn't (not right away at least). It was 2011, and I was 26. But again, thanks to the law in Massachusetts, I was able to get a low-cost plan through the Massachusetts Health Connector for the year it took me to get a full time job with insurance. If I hadn't lived in Massachusetts in 2008, I don't know what I would have done. Thanks to the plan that was supported by Mitt Romney, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, I had insurance that covered my pre-existing conditions.

People in the other 49 states weren't so lucky. Until 2010, when the provisions of the Affordable Care Act began to be implemented. You know, the plan that looked a lot like the one we had in Massachusetts with coverage of pre-existing conditions. The plan that was still opposed by all but one Republican member of the House despite being so similar to a Republican-backed plan.

They called it Obamacare, meant as a pejorative, meant to smear it as some death-panel filled government takeover of health care.

But what it really meant to someone like me, who could now go anywhere in the country and have relative peace of mind that if I lost a job or had changing circumstances I would find insurance, was that finally, someone did care. I moved to Washington, DC in 2012. At 27, I got my first employer issued insurance plan. I felt safe for a few years, knowing that there was a net to catch me if the tightrope of medical care I was walking frayed.

Now, despite all of the president's promises that the protections for pre-existing conditions wouldn't go away, his promises that we'll get "terrific" health care for lower costs, the House of Representatives, specifically the Republicans, have voted to take that net out from under me and the millions of other Americans who depended on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act to get healthcare, or even just to reassure them that there was help there for them should they ever need it. The Republican members of Congress elected to represent us, the American people, just proved that they don't care. They don't care about the millions of Americans who will lose their health insurance, will lose their peace of mind, and, ultimately, will even lose their lives.