Angelina Jolie: Best and Worst of Healthcare Circumstances

I don’t know who Angelina Jolie is, nor do I care to because I’m not much interested in movie stars.  My readers know I’m a big sports fan.  RG3 is more my style.

Lisa travelled back home a couple of days ago from New York.  She brought a copy of the New York Times on her flight and read Ms. Jolie’s article recounting her decision to undergo a double mastectomy earlier this year as a preventive procedure.  Something about a defective gene she inherited from her late mother, who died at only 56, and how that inherited gene makes it very likely she will develop breast cancer.  I’m a little uncomfortable writing about such things, so I’ll let Lisa take over.

*********************************************************************************************************************** Hello, readers of Henry At 100 & Beyond.  Thank you, Henry.  It’s always great when you hand your blog, which was once my blog, back to me.  It doesn’t happen very often, so I like to make the best of the opportunity when I get it.

Angelina Jolie’s simply written, yet extremely thoughtful and moving article that appeared in the New York Times on May 14, 2013, is a wonderful example of the behavior SOUL SHERPA has been advocating for years.  My company promotes patient advocacy, even when a person is healthy.  Ms. Jolie is fortunate in that she is able to hire any healthcare advocate she desires, without concern for cost.  The genetic testing she underwent is not covered by typical insurance.  Genetic testing is a private pay (self-pay) procedure, which usually runs into thousands of dollars.

I believe it is a wonderful thing when a person can afford to be proactive and pay for valuable testing that reveals information that can literally save their life.  I applaud Angelina’s courage to undergo testing, receive the tragic results, yet still move forward in a life-affirming manner.  Placing her children’s well-being above all else is a beautiful behavior not all parents are capable of embracing.  I wish the Jolie-Pitt family many more happy and healthy years together.

But what happens to the mother who would like to pursue the same genetic testing because of a similar family history, but is unable to afford the cost?  How many doctors and genetic labs would be willing to accept a patient such as this woman on a pro bono basis?  And even if she is fortunate enough to have this genetic testing performed, what if she learns her genes are similar to Ms. Jolie’s but she is unable to afford proactive double mastectomy and reconstructive surgeries?

To me, that would be the worst circumstance a young mother could find herself in.  Wishing to be a proactive healthcare advocate on her own behalf, but not able to financially afford the costs involved in genetic testing and preventive surgical procedures.  In 2014, due to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA,) medical insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to any person for a pre-existing condition.  Yet while a woman who carries a gene indicating she is at high risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer may have insurance coverage, will she be able to afford the premium for that coverage?

Personally, I have seen my own premiums with Blue Cross of California rise over 100 percent within the last two years.  Why?  When universal healthcare coverage takes effect as fully as it will in 2014, I predict little change in the annual profits earned by medical insurance companies, hospital chain-owning corporations, and specialist medical doctors.  The ACA, unfortunately, cannot help in these areas.  I am affected by skyrocketing insurance premiums, I research the growing profit margins of corporations who run hospitals chains, and I hear daily of specialty M.D.s who have decided to opt-out of accepting patients with insurance.

We all need to be vigilant and realistic as we move forward in our pursuit of universal healthcare coverage.  Just because the ACA is the law, it doesn’t mean everyone will abide by its spirit.  SOUL SHERPA is aware of many healthcare providers circumventing the true intent of universal healthcare coverage.

Like Angelina, proactivity prior to illness is always preferable.  But unlike Angelina, those of us who are not paid millions of dollars to advertise gorgeous, expensive clothing and handbags usually are unable to cover the cost of genetic testing and any surgeries that may be indicated based upon testing results.

I would like to know if any of Ms. Jolie’s doctors have opted out of accepting insurance and work solely for private pay patients.  In Angelina’s case, it doesn’t matter because she is wealthy.  In the cases of the rest of us, what good is behaving proactively to preserve our health and lives if we are unable to find a medical team who will do for us what was done for Ms. Jolie, simply because we are not in a position to personally pay our medical providers out of our own pockets?

Ms. Jolie is brave and fortunate.  I wish her a long, healthy life, just like Henry.  SOUL SHERPA isn’t anything Angelina needs.  It is the rest of the population that does, desperately.  That is why no person in need is ever refused SOUL SHERPA’s services.  If a client has the ability to pay, he/she does.  If not, either sliding scale or pro bono status applies.  Every human is precious, not only wealthy ones.

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