The PJ Tatler

Dropped Coverage: One Cancer-Surviving Doctor's Story in the Age of Obamacare

It’s easy to get lost in the numbers: CareFirst is dropping healthcare coverage for 76,000 because of Obamacare.  In Florida, Obamacare is costing 300,000 their health insurance. State by state, Americans can expect to pay more to get less from the health insurance, again thanks to Obamacare. Millions of Americans who actually wanted to purchase health insurance through Healthcare.gov cannot, because the site was poorly built, still doesn’t work, and the Obama administration has yet to hold anyone accountable.

Behind all of these numbers, though, are real people.

Dr. Shaun Carpenter, 41, is a board certified emergency physician in the New Orleans area. He was part of a rescue team that helped evacuate critical patients during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Dr. Carpenter is a family man, father of three children with another on the way. He also owns his own business, a private medical practice, and has several patents pending for wound-healing products.

Carpenter says that hospitals tend to treat ER physicians as independent contractors, so he was not allowed to join his hospital’s group health insurance policy. He and his family elected to obtain coverage through his wife’s employer.

Shaun Carpenter is also a patient. A few years ago he was diagnosed with a serious blood disorder called hereditary hemochromatosis.

“Hemochromatosis causes extra iron to gradually build up in the body’s tissues and organs. After many years, the excess iron becomes toxic—causing a slow death where the body literally rusts from the inside out,” he says in Iron Men, a documentary about the disease. He discovered that he had the painful condition after his brother was diagnosed with it.

Hereditary hemochromatosis is treatable and can be controlled through diet, but it can also get you labeled as carrying a pre-existing condition.

Add to the hemochromatosis, which is now under control, Dr. Carpenter has been stricken with cancer twice. He suffered and beat both lymphoma and melanoma, in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

Obamacare, aka the Affordable Care Act, came packaged with lofty promises. President Obama said his law was supposed to make denials of insurance based on pre-existing conditions a thing of the past. President Obama specifically promised that Americans would no longer be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions, along with promising that if we like our doctors and current health care plans, we can keep them.

So imagine Dr. Carpenter’s shock when he received the news that he and his family were losing their health insurance at the end of this year.

“I was at my mother-in-law’s birthday party last week when she asked me, ‘What are you gonna do about health insurance?'” She told him that his wife’s employer is sending out letters informing its staff that it is dropping their Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans.

Carpenter liked the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plan that he and his family were on. It was stable and provided excellent care for many years through several illnesses.

His wife’s employer has dropped these plans due to Obamacare. “Yes, absolutely,” Carpenter says.

“As a physician I’ve been opposed to Obamacare from the get-go,” Carpenter says. “It doesn’t begin to fix the real problems with our health care system, and creates new problems. I see it from both the private practice side and the ER side. In fact, we knew that when patients came into the ER without insurance they would actually get better care because we knew we had to run every test imaginable on them or risk getting sued.” The problem isn’t lack of health insurance, he says, but lack of health care. “Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you’ll get health care. Just ask anyone who has Medicaid how hard it is to get an appointment with a specialist. The wait can be several months, if you ever get in at all.” That’s what Obamacare promised to make more accessible and more affordable.

And now, Obamacare is costing his own family its insurance.

He notes that there has never been a show of numbers of physicians against Obamacare, despite the overwhelming majority of doctors being “beyond livid” about the law. “Doctors are not political,” the registered independent says, adding that “you don’t hang your party affiliation on your clinic door.”

“The only doctor who publicly stood up against Obamacare, Dr. Ben Carson, immediately got audited by the IRS.” He also notes that Obamacare essentially empowered lawyers to dismantle the health care industry. “Doctors should be allowed to remake the legal industry,” he quips.

Because of Obamacare, “people like me who busted my ass to get where I am, get hurt.”

He says that he and his wife are scrambling to get insurance through his own company’s group policy before their new baby is born in December. But many Americans won’t have that option. Obamacare will leave them stranded, either without insurance and facing the IRS, or when it’s all said and done paying far more for health insurance than they paid before the law kicked in. And even though they might be “insured,” the increase in patients and shortfall of doctors will leave them without real healthcare.