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What If?

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My husband was recently diagnosed with melanoma. I lie awake at night in the icy grip of fear, wondering how we’ll break the news to his parents or whether he’ll dance with our daughters at their weddings.

My worst fears are compounded by stress about healthcare. I’m self-employed, and we depend on my husband’s job for insurance. We’re a decade away from Medicare. What if he dies, or grows too sick to work? Or what if he’s fine, but loses his job?

“Until now, I haven’t had any pre-existing conditions,” my husband frets as sleep eludes us. “Now I’ll never be able to get insurance on my own.”

Our bad news came the same week Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. As our lives turned upside down, so did the outlook for healthcare reform.

My husband and I are lucky—we have money in the bank, a home, jobs, and insurance, at least for the moment. Luckier still, my husband’s melanoma was caught early, and can be successfully treated through surgery. He still will never be able to get insurance on his own if he loses his job, but all the other “what ifs” remain hypothetical. For now. For us.

Others are not so fortunate. Tens of millions of Americans lack access to medical care. They’d never know they had melanoma until it was too late. Even those with good coverage are just an illness or a divorce or a job loss away from catastrophe. No one is immune. As my husband and I discovered, fortune can change in an instant. We dodged the bullet this time, but healthcare should not be a game of Russian roulette.

Cancer scares me, but the hijacking of reform efforts makes me furious. Why do we tolerate a system that forces people to lie awake at night worrying, “What if I get sick or lose my job?”

Instead, what if we put the well-being of all Americans above politics and profit, and insisted that Congress pass meaningful healthcare reform now? Then maybe we could all rest easier.

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