The first time I was denied health insurance was almost three years before I was diagnosed with cancer. My COBRA assistance had run out and I was facing a $700 medical premium. I was working at a small, three-person start-up that was resolutely holding me at 1099 (despite requiring me to go into the office every day, tres illegal) so they wouldn't have to provide me health insurance. Such was the world before the ACA.

I decided to apply for an individual plan, it had to be cheaper than that, right?

I was rejected.

The reason? Preexisting medical conditions.

Buried somewhere deep in the approximately 26-page rejection letter I found a small list of these conditions that had gotten me rejected for coverage. It looked like this:

Preexisting medical conditions as follows:

Depression (acute)
Abnormal pap smear

Take a second and absorb that. Let's start with the most ridiculous - depression. I had gone to see a therapist one time because I was having trouble sleeping after my brother lost his long, painful battle with cancer. So "depression, acute" basically means I got sad once after my brother died.

I think we all know acne is a horrific, life-crippling disorder. I'm not trying to diminish that here. But, what. the. fuck.

Oh, and that abnormal pap smear? It was nothing. They retested a few months later and found nothing. The doctor chocked it up to something I did in the days preceding the test. She also assured me it was incredibly common In fact, according to the google search I did ten seconds ago:

Getting an abnormal pap is extremely common — studies have found that anywhere from two to six percent of people with cervixes get them at least once in their lives. Extrapolating that for the United States population (which boasts approximately 161 million cervixes!), that’s between approximately 3.7 and 9.6 million people (source)

Listen, I get it. Insurance is big business in this country. People make boatloads of money off of it. If I was a greedy, soulless person who decided to fight tooth and nail to keep making jillions of dollars off of medicine and care I wouldn't want to pay for Dena's exorbitantly extravagant cancer healthcare either. It doesn't make sense for the business. 

That's not what I'm talking about here. Let's not even talk about my cancer. Let's talk about the terrifying fact that acne, mourning, and basically having a cervix were enough to make me uninsurable. 

Maybe now you understand why I am up at 4am writing this? 

Listen, I am truly grateful for the asshats who rejected me 5 years ago. Because after that rejection I became aggressively vigilant about never having a gap in coverage.  Back then, in the wild west days pre-ACA, having a coverage gap of just 31 days was enough to toss you into the category of "preexisting medical condition, never going to get health insurance again." I even looked into the waiting list for that "bucket of subsidies" that used to exist - the one for people who were uninsurable, the one they want to bring back if I am reading this right. At the time I looked into it,  the waiting list for that special insurance was two years long.  

I am lucky though. I had healthcare when I got cancer. I got covered (mostly - let's not get into the weeds on how expensive a cancer diagnosis is, even with health insurance.) None of that keeps me from the deep fear I feel for what will happen if this heinous bill makes it through the Senate. 

I think it helps to give a face to the people who would suffer the most. Sometimes we as a society associate illness with shame, as if we have somehow failed because our bodies are failing us. It's hard not to feel like a burden - emotionally, physically, financially. I try very hard not to be ashamed. 

My name is Dena, and I have acne. 

I'm kidding, but not really. The ACHA is terrifying in the gaping loopholes it opens up for the business of health insurance companies to jump through in order to ensure profits. 

It's not too late. They haven't won yet.  We can still try to stop them.